Company: Bristol-Myers Squibb
Title: Head of Worldwide Commercialization
Not many people can say they’ve taken a struggling, third-to-market product and turned it into a market leader. But Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Susan Sweeney can.
Sweeney, recently named as head of U.S. commercial ops at BMS, helped blood thinner Eliquis go from laggard to leader in the next-gen oral anticoagulant market as VP of Bristol’s U.S. cardiovascular business unit. And these days, the drug is primed not only to hold its edge over Johnson & Johnson’s Xarelto and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Pradaxa, but to unseat old-timer warfarin, too.
“One of the things that we did … when we just weren’t performing as well as what we thought we could do with that product” was “interrogate and question everything we were doing,” Sweeney said. And after consulting with outside marketing experts and physicians, BMS met with partner Pfizer and “changed some things in our marketing plan.”
“We knew we had a very special product in Eliquis. We needed to make sure we got the information out to the physicians,” she said.
These days, Eliquis is steamrolling in the U.S., and it’ll be Sweeney’s job to make sure it keeps contributing to the company’s top line in a big way. As she comes over from her previous position of head of worldwide commercialization, she’ll be responsible for “making BMS, across our portfolio, successful in the U.S. market,” she said. That’s a job that includes “continuing to drive our Eliquis business,” but also growing drugs such as Yervoy, Sprycel, Emplicity and immuno-oncology standout Opdivo, too.
But that’s not all the new job entails. “Another really big part of this role is of course the culture,” Sweeney said, and “continuing to drive passion, speed to patient and speed to market” as well as “innovation in our culture and making sure we’re trying new things.”
Another cultural value that Sweeney, who’s been with BMS since 1995, praises at her employer? Work-life balance. As a “proud mother” of six, that balance has always been especially important, she said. She pointed to BMS’ “pretty extensive” family leave policies and the daycare centers present at all the company’s major U.S. facilities as factors that help “balance the very complex world that we’re in today.”
But while factors such as those have helped the industry make “great strides” toward gender equality in the life sciences industry, there’s still work to be done. In particular, very few women hold CEO positions, she noted.
“I think as we get more people as role models who are able to show how they’re able to make a contribution and a difference in their company but they also don’t forego their family life, it’s another example of a way to go ahead and propel women forward,” she said.