June Bray—Allergan

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June Bray
Company: Allergan
Title: Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Medical Writing

If June Bray knows one thing besides drug regulators, it’s M&A.

Over the years she’s spent shepherding drugs from testing to market, Bray has survived through one merger after another, a testament not only to her ability to do her job, but to persevere through big changes.

And Bray’s own company has been no different. As head of regulatory affairs at Allergan, she’s made it through Actavis’ purchase of Forest Laboratories and then Actavis’ Allergan buyout, in which Allergan was the name that came out on top. “Through all the M&A I remained head of regulatory affairs,” she said. “I’m quite proud of that.”

Because of the shifting ownership—and executive changes that came along—Bray has worked with many different managers, a few “extremely supportive,” and at least one who wasn’t, not only of Bray, but of women in the workplace at all. It was early on in her 41-year career, when the biopharma industry was even more male-dominated than it is now. “I was working as hard as any of the men in the organization,” she recalled, “but he felt women should be at home with children.”

Bray started her career in manufacturing in the late 1970s, and she often was the only women working in that area of the business; only later would she switch into regulatory affairs. Good thing Bray wasn’t the type to be cowed, either by tasks that might at first have seemed overwhelming or by the challenges of balancing a demanding job with a family.

The managers who recognized her talents handed her some important and challenging assignments that would help her build the skills and expertise needed to run an entire regulatory operation, which at Allergan amounts to 350 employees.

“I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve been given a lot of opportunities, including handling significant products for companies” where she worked at the time, she said, and that good fortune included having some “outstanding managers who had a lot of confidence and faith that I could take on a product for the company and bring it through global registration.”

The fact that she successfully did so wasn’t luck, of course, but hard work and her own ability to set a strategy and carry it out, not only in the U.S. but in multiple countries. She’s brought 30 applications to the finish line in the U.S. alone, and the approval process is the most rewarding part of her job, Bray said. “Obtaining those approvals are the highlights of my career,” she said.

These days, Bray is excited about a new approval for Alllergan’s blockbuster hopeful Vraylar, an antipsychotic that Allergan recently submitted for a new indication in bipolar depression, and a migraine med in the up-and-coming CGRP class. Her most recent approval, in early October, was a tetracycline antibiotic, Seysara (sarecycline). She’s also pushing patient-centered drug development, a relatively new phenomenon in which the FDA allows companies to use trial endpoints derived not only from tried-and-true measurements, but from patients themselves.

That new twist, plus constantly changing regulations around the globe, put Bray and her team in constant strategy sessions, aiming for approvals with “optimal labeling,” she said. And Bray herself spends much of her time in meetings with regulators, wherever they might be. Last year, she spent 48 weeks on the road, between visits to various Allergan offices and foreign stops.

Though that travel schedule is far more extreme than it was earlier in her career, she spent time on the road and worked long hours all along the way, sometimes interrupted by the inevitable surprises that come when raising children. “When you have a family, most of the work of raising children falls on the mother’s shoulders,” and working through those responsibilities “has been a challenge,” she said. She remembers meetings when she had to leave to care for a sick child. “When you’re in a room with all men, they want you to stay and you can’t stay,” she said. “Those are the kind of things that are challenges.”

That’s not to say that women can’t pull it off; in fact, Bray sees the multitasking required to balance family and work as a skill that directly translates into effective management at the office. “I have a lot of working mothers working for me, and they’re accustomed to handling challenges at home and in the workplace," she said. “They’re able to compartmentalize and focus on the job at hand and get it done.”

Women’s ability to empathize and to relate to employees as individuals are advantages in management, too, she said: “Women are good at recognizing individuals for their contributions and at demonstrating concern on a personal level. That can be more influential at managing employees than making demands.”

And if their supervisors don’t recognize their achievements? Bray’s perennial advice for women is to look past their current managers. “Whether you have a good relationship with your manager or not, do the best job you can, and others will recognize the contribution you’re making,” she said.

Though she’s pleased to see that women have a strong beachhead in middle management, she, like her peers among the Fiercest Women in Life Sciences, thinks more needs to be done to push women to senior levels. And that applies to her own company, though that’s changing. Just in the last year, she’s seen recruiters bring more female candidates to the table, for instance.

“We’re not where we should be, but we’re making progress, albeit slowly,” she said. “I’m hopeful we’ll continue to see more women in senior positions.”

June Bray—Allergan