TEXT OF THE INTRODUCTORY ADDRESS DELIVERED BY: PROFESSOR ANITA MAGUIRE,
Vice President for Research & Innovation, University College Cork on 8 June 2012, on the
occasion of the conferring of the Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa,
A Sheansailéir agus a mhuintir uilig na hOllscoile,
A rare scientist leading a major pharmaceutical company, John C. Lechleiter, PhD, is a fierce champion of biopharmaceutical innovation and the value it brings to people around the world. Eli Lilly and Company today is the 10th-largest pharmaceutical company in the world, but its roots go back 136 years. In 1876, a Civil War veteran, Colonel Eli Lilly, started a pharmaceutical business with two employees and $1,400 in total capital, staked by a benefactor who had faith in him. Colonel Eli Lilly had an inspiration to replace the pills, potions and nostrums of his day with ethical drugs
– true medicines that were what they said they were and that did what they said they would do. He assembled trained experts who would apply principles of scientific research and quality manufacturing. From that spark sprang a world renowned company with a legacy of seminal medical breakthroughs.
Until the 1920s, a diagnosis of diabetes was a death sentence. In 1922, Lilly scientists, working with University of Toronto colleagues, produced the world’s first insulin.
In the 1940s, Lilly scientists and engineers determined how to mass-produce penicillin – a breakthrough that saved millions of lives.
In the 1950s, Lilly people found a way to mass-produce the polio vaccine, and Lilly became the world’s largest supplier.
Through the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, Lilly scientists introduced important new classes of antibiotics, including macrolides and the cephalosporin family.
In the 1980s, Lilly scientists developed Humulin - the first medicine created using recombinant DNA technology - which ushered in the era of biotechnology.
In the decades since, Lilly people delivered innovations to treat people with mental illness - Prozac, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, and more.
Today, Lilly markets medicines in more than 140 countries, manufactures products in 9 countries, and carries out R&D in 13. Lilly’s legacy of advancing human health has been matched by its spirit of giving.
The company perennially ranks among the most generous global corporations.
For example the company has committed over $135 million to battle multiple-drug resistant tuberculosis in the hardest-hit countries, and recently undertook a new initiative to help people suffering from non-communicable diseases.
Lilly also has been a very strong friend and partner to Ireland.
Its Kinsale operation has played a pivotal role in Lilly’s success over the last 30 years since the first medicines were manufactured on the site using chemical synthesis in 1981, continually demonstrating its ability to deliver on its commitments with an outstanding record of regulatory compliance. Furthermore, Kinsale exemplifies Lilly’s ongoing transformation to meet patients’ and customers’ needs into the future. For 30 years, Kinsale has manufactured small molecules for Lilly and Elanco, its animal health business, for worldwide markets. But in 2006, its traditional mission was expanded with the announcement of a new biotechnology manufacturing facility and commercialization labs. Early on, both inside and outside the company, there was skepticism around the idea that you could co-locate a biotech plant with an existing small-molecule plant, or whether employees could do the different work required. But the people of Kinsale saw this new challenge as one more hill to conquer. Today, through investment of over €500m in Kinsale in the last 5 years, expanding its mission with the completion of new biotechnology manufacturing and process development facilities, they’ve created a facility equipped to manufacture nearly 90 percent of the biotech molecules in Lilly’s pipeline, while maintaining top-notch metrics in terms of safety, as well as an exemplary inspection record from both the IMB and FDA. With a robust late-stage pipeline, the company sees Kinsale playing a very significant part in its future. And with the establishment of a shared services centre in Cork, Lilly’s commitment here remains strong for the long term. Eli Lilly at Kinsale is a very valued partner of University College Cork including engagement in collaborative research, support for postgraduate students, student awards, hosting student placements etc. John received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Xavier University (Cincinnati, Ohio) in 1975. He then studied organic chemistry as a National Science Foundation Fellow at Harvard University, where he received his master’s and doctorate degrees. His PhD research director at Harvard was Dr Paul A. Wender, now Bergstrom Prof of Chemistry at Stanford University. In 2006, John received an honorary doctorate of business administration from Marian University and in 2012, the same degree from University of Indianapolis - both schools in Indianapolis, Indiana. John joined Lilly in 1979 as a senior organic chemist in process research and development and became head of that department in 1982. In 1984, he began serving as director of pharmaceutical product development for the Lilly Research Centre Limited in Windlesham, England. He returned to the United States in 1986 and rapidly progressed through a series of key positions ultimately becoming president and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly and Company in April 2008 and chairman of the board of directors since December of that year. In April, 2012, John became chairman of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) - the largest U.S. industry trade organization - and will become chairman of International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) in October - advocating on behalf of the entire industry. John has become the industry’s leading public voice on the importance of medical innovation and the value of innovative medicines. He regularly speaks at leading venues in Europe, the U.S., China and Japan. During his tenure as Lilly CEO, he’s published more opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal
than all his peer CEOs combined. He’s the author of a monthly column on medical
innovation on Forbes.com. His views on the policies that foster innovation have been sought by global political leaders, including President Obama. John is also a member of the American Chemical Society and Business Roundtable, and serves on the boards of United Way Worldwide, Xavier University, Life Sciences Foundation, the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, and Nike, Inc. John Lechleiter has had a powerful connection to Kinsale almost since the site was opened in 1981 - and to UCC as well.
He first visited in 1982 when he was Head of Process Research and Development.
In 2008, just days after he became CEO, his first visit to any location was to Kinsale to break ground on the new Biopharma manufacturing facility and inaugurate new facilities for pharma commercialization.
He has facilitated the ongoing evolution of the Lilly business in Ireland to where today we have over 700 employees in pharma manufacturing in Kinsale, animal health product manufacturing in Sligo, a sales affiliate in Dublin and a shared services center in Cork.
He has visited UCC on several occasions since becoming CEO and brought the Lilly Board of Directors to visit in August 2011.
He has encouraged the growth and development of UCC chemistry PhD graduates as Lilly has sponsored a unique opportunity for these postgraduates to work in the company’s late phase development laboratories in Indianapolis and get first-hand experience in process development in a large pharmaceutical company.
He has fostered the development of several NUI graduates to senior positions within Lilly.
These are just some examples of John Lechleiter’s vision and leadership. In fact, John has been leading Lilly through the greatest challenges in the company’s 136-year history, challenges that combine a turbulent business environment with the loss of patents on several key products. Despite these challenges - and at a time when some pharmaceutical giants are turning their focus to consumer products, generics or other businesses - John has been adamant that Lilly’s commitment to innovation will not waver. Throughout his Lilly career, he’s looked for ways to get medicines to patients more effectively and efficiently. Upon becoming CEO, he led the largest acquisition in Lilly’s history – ImClone - which brought to Lilly several exciting cancer compounds and strong biotech capabilities. He reorganized the company around five businesses - BioMedicines; Diabetes; Oncology; Emerging Markets; and Elanco - to strengthen Lilly’s connection to its customers. And he has helped build the largest cohort of Phase 2 and Phase 3 molecules in Lilly’s history - a substrate of innovation to generate a new era of Lilly growth. Even while John has been transforming Lilly to address its challenges and adapt to a tougher business environment, he has steadfastly maintained the company’s historic core values, which he himself exemplifies: integrity; excellence; and respect for people. These three over-arching core values guide the firm in what it does and in implementing its strategies and objectives, and these values are epitomized in all that John Lechleiter does and has done within the company. One of the areas John has championed is that of volunteering by employees in their local communities. In addition to the many activities that he and Sarah personally support in the
Indianapolis area, John began a unique initiative at Lilly called the Lilly Global Day of Service where employees are allowed a day off to collectively participate in environmental, social or other projects to help in their respective communities. Imagine 20,000 employees engaged in community efforts in 27 countries all on the same day! This has now become an annual event at Lilly. That passion for the local community has been replicated at the Kinsale plant over its 30 year existence where the company - and employees individually - have supported multiple community activities in the Kinsale area. Another unique attribute of John’s is his desire to be accessible. He travels widely to visit Lilly operations around the globe and meet with employees, patients and many other stakeholders of the company. He is very approachable and it is not unusual to see him wandering the corporate headquarters or research labs and having employees chat to him about issues of the day or what is on their minds. Very much a man of modern media, he maintains his own page on the company’s internal website and blogs regularly on a variety of topics and invites dialogue from all employees. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, the eldest of nine children, John learnt at an early stage the skills of negotiation and how to compromise and get along with others. John and his wife Sarah have three children - Andrew, Daniel and Elizabeth and it is a pleasure to see them here today together with their spouses - Rachel, Allison and Patrick. In spite of the many demands of a busy corporate career, family remains an important foundation in John’s life and has been a source of support to him in all that he has done. For all John’s strengths as a leader, friends say that he’s a humble and generous man with a love of fun and a great sense of humor. He is also a collector of quotes. So it’s fitting to close with two of John’s favorites that sum up his passion for scientific innovation and Eli Lilly and Company. The first is from Dr George Clowes, Lilly’s first head of research and the man who forged Lilly’s partnership in commercializing the world’s first insulin: “ …the truth cannot be found without the knowledge and utilization of fundamental science. Courage is required of commercial concerns, which encourage that research without any prospect of return. But unless such a course is followed, we may rest assured that much science for the benefit of mankind will be curtailed.” The second comes from Eli Lilly, grandson of the company’s founder: “Research is the heart of the business, the soul of the enterprise.” John Lechleiter, PhD, scientist, philanthropist, and bold leader, is a worthy successor to the family who devoted their lives and careers to bring the health, healing and hope of innovative medicines to millions of people around the world. Today we recognise the strategically important role of the pharmaceutical sector in Ireland, currently accounting for over 50% of exports, and the leading role played by Lilly in this sector, but most importantly we honour the leadership displayed by John Lechleiter from his early career as a scientist to his current role as a global leader for innovation in this sector.
Praehonorabilis cancellarie, totaque universitas:
Praesento vobis hunc meum filium quem scio tam moribus quam doctrina habilem et idoneum esse qui admittatur, honoris causa, ad gradum Doctoratus in Scientia, idque tibi fide mea testor ac spondeo totique Academiae.
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