The company's General Manager on the challenge and importance to be in the frontlines of modern pharmaceutics
International experience and work in different culture and business environment always benefit managers such as Dr Lisa Bonadonna.
The current General Manager of GlaxoSmithKline Bulgaria pharmaceutical company has 15 years of experience in commercial roles in Australia and Italy. In 2012, she joined GSK's CGA Team as Vice President, leading the negotiations for the first agreement between the industry and the WHO under the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework. Prior to taking over as GM of GSK Bulgaria in 2018, she was the Global Lead of GSK-Save the Children's partnership and access to GSK's medicinal products portfolio. Lisa has a PhD in immunology from the University of Melbourne, Australia, an MBA in Public Health Policy from LSE and a Master's Degree in Business from Melbourne Business School.
How do you feel as a woman manager in Bulgaria?
Personally I believe it is time to move on from gender qualifiers when we discuss leadership in business. Across industries in Bulgaria, there are many business leaders, both women and men, with wonderfully diverse backgrounds and experience acquired working both locally and internationally. Yes, gender matters, as does life stage, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, education, health and the many other defining characteristics that make us who we are as individuals. Diversity helps make companies profitable and innovative and all employees should feel respected and with an equal opportunity to grow and advance in their career.
I have lived and worked not only in Bulgaria, but also in Australia, Italy, UK, Belgium… and have always felt that my leadership and other skills were valued, and never despite or because I am a woman and this makes me confident that the gender gap in Fortune 500 companies will continue to be bridged – but I agree as leaderships we must remain vigilant and not let the importance of diversity and representation slip from the business agenda.
The world of medicines is changing. How is GSK a part of this change?
GSK is at the forefront of scientific research in different therapy areas, specifically if there is an unmet medical need, such as exists in HIV, CAR-T cell therapy, multiple myeloma, ovarian cancer.
The company is also extremely active in developing new, innovative medicines and vaccines as part of its Global Health agenda, partnering with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others large philanthropic organizations, universities, scientific centers. The continued strengthening of R&D pipeline in 2019 is evident: eight submissions, six positive pivotal trial results and four new assets progressed into pivotal trials. In 2020 we expect at least six potential approvals in oncology, HIV, specialty and respiratory medicines and proof of concept readouts on several key pipeline assets including four oncology medicines and vaccines for COPD and RSV.
From a broader perspective, GSK has 27 R&D projects targeting priority pathogens, including pathogens deemed "critical" and "urgent" by the WHO and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of these projects, 15 relate to vaccines and we continue to see vaccination as a major pathway to fight AMR (Benchmark Report recognized our contribution in January this year).
With regards to Global Health, we recently announced two major collaborations. One of them is aimed at helping the global effort to develop a vaccine for the 2019-nCoV virus. In this new move GSK will make its established pandemic vaccine adjuvant platform technology available to enhance the development of an effective vaccine against 2019-nCoV.
At GSK, we are very proud also to have developed a TB vaccine candidate which has shown promising clinical trial results in adolescents and adults where the need to combat the TB epidemic is greatest. There is no approved vaccine capable of preventing pulmonary TB disease in adolescents and adults – the live attenuated vaccine, Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), that has been in use for nearly a century provides limited protection against pulmonary TB among this target group. That types of alliances means we can take a more sustainable approach to global health, focusing our efforts and expertise on science and research, while partnering with others to ensure their development and delivery.
What are the GSK products you are prouder with?
As you may expect that I am incredibly proud of GSK's entire portfolio, more than 50 years in respiratory medicine, milestone contributions in antibiotics and HIV to name just a few. But as a molecular biologist with a special interest in immunology, I have a particular affection for GSK's vaccines portfolio. Whilst our medicines help treat diseases, it is our vaccines that help prevent diseases, most often protecting our precious babies and children from life threatening and life changing illnesses.
As I said above – some intriguing new vaccines are arriving to affirm our leadership position in the area. I am proud that Bulgarian babies receive the best protection that can be offered to newborns, as the immunization policy in the country is well established and the calendar mirrors that of most European countries.
If there is one thing that I would like to see improve, however, it is interventions like cervical screening and HPV vaccination to detect and prevent cervical cancer – which unfortunately remains a major killer of Bulgarian mothers, aunts, partners, sisters and daughters when we can see from impact assessments in many countries that this disease can be all but eliminated – now this is a topic where gender themed questions should and must be asked.
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