Title: VP, Medical Affairs
As soon as Beate Stych, M.D., started to do her first rotations as part of her medical school education in Austria, she realized that what she had studied was almost entirely about using drugs to hopefully make patients feel better without, however, the knowledge of how medicines are developed.
“It’s like a black box that all of a sudden appears … so for me, I wanted to actually figure out what’s behind this and that business aspect of it,” Stych recently said. That, she explains, is how she got into the field of medical affairs, a profession that brings medicine to patients by educating physicians, creating a “bridge” between clinical development and commercial within a biopharma company.
After spending years with Merck & Co. and NPS Pharma, she joined Regeneron in 2007 to build a medical affairs team from scratch just six months ahead of the company launching its first product, orphan drug Arcalyst for rare autoinflammatory conditions.
Through the past 10 years, Stych’s role has shifted, from hands-on do-it-yourself to more about managing and making sure the team is strategically moving in the right direction, especially as the regulatory landscape has changed where commercial can go, placing more importance on medical affairs.
However, with all those transformations, Stych said there’s only one challenge worth mentioning, and it’s Regeneron’s growth.
The Tarrytown, New York-based company now has six FDA-approved medicines, including Eylea—with Q3 2017 sales of $953 million, up 12%—and Sanofi-partnered Dupixent. With those half-dozen approvals, Regeneron has grown rapidly from about 500 employees when Stych joined to more than 6,000 now, while medical affairs has grown from Stych alone to a team of about 120. That has meant hiring the right (number of) people for the right position. Besides technical skills, high work ethics and a person’s ability to fit into the company’s culture are also attributes that Stych values.
Across Regeneron’s scientific function groups, including R&D, clinical, regulatory affairs and medical affairs, 54% are female employees. While women still hold fewer leadership jobs than men in the industry, Stych said the situation has improved over her career span and she expects that to continue.
But to her, hiring the right people to achieve success is more about the beauty in the perfect balance of talents rather than planning certain aspects of diversity so that a company can say, “Oh, look how diverse we are.”
As for suggestions for other women who just started their career, Stych puts much stress on the patient-centric mentality. “It’s all about the patient, period. If somebody can’t relate to that, then they’re not in the right place,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what function it is, if you don’t have that goal and that passion to do what is right for the patients, I don’t think you can be as successful as you would otherwise be.”