We admire the efforts of Gilead Sciences to find right ways to overcome the major threats of human health, and challenges of diversifying its areas into cancer, HIV, hepatitis and beyond. What are Gilead’s major business philosophy and strategies?
Gilead’s decision-making is guided by science and by the needs of patients. By understanding the needs of patients, we can focus research where our efforts will have the greatest future impact and apply scientific knowledge to those areas.
You have a science background and still, you had been recognized as one of the best CEOs among Fortune 500 companies, by many reputable media. What are the pros and cons of being a scientist trained CEO in the biotech company?
The biotechnology industry is unique in that it is a blend of science and business. Having a foundation in science plus business education and experience allows one to make sound business decisions based on confidence in scientific data and principles.
You recently had a huge success in launching Hepatitis C medication and we’ve seen many innovative activities of Gilead. What makes Gilead a better innovator than other companies? In addition to that, what are your plans on launching Sovaldi in Korea, China and other Asian markets?
By focusing on science and patient needs, we are able to identify the most important projects with the greatest likelihood of success, and those that will have the greatest future impact on patients’ health.
In the area of HIV, the once-daily medications and single tablet regimens that Gilead has developed help to simplify treatment for patients. And while simplifying treatment has significantly benefited millions of patients worldwide, we continue to look at how we can improve on existing treatment options. The ultimate goal is to find a cure.
In the area of hepatitis B, we introduced Viread in Korea in 2012. We have been working in partnership with the medical community there, and around the world, to increase awareness of HBV and its link to liver cancer, and to expand access to treatment.
Hepatitis C is an international health challenge, and we’re currently working to secure approval for Sovaldi around the world, including in Asian countries.
Over the years, Gilead has focused on bringing together teams of talented people with deep experience in their fields and a personal commitment to patients. When we opened our Seoul office in 2011 and our Tokyo office in 2013, we focused on recruiting experienced local professionals to lead our work in those markets. This will continue to be a critical component of our success as we expand our presence internationally.
The World Korean Medical Organization (WKMO) recently established a consulting subsidiary named W Medical Strategy Group to maximize utilization of knowledge and expertise of our member physicians in achieving our goals of enhancing quality of human life. What do you think the roles of physicians and also roles of organization such as ours are in developing new therapeutics?
Scientific breakthroughs are almost always the product of collaboration, which is why Gilead works with a broad network of partners, including many researchers and clinicians who participate in clinical trials that are essential to therapeutic innovation. Healthcare professionals also play a critical role in identifying future needs, educating patients and helping them access the best treatments. Healthcare advocates are a strong voice in support of innovation.
Gilead is also known for supporting emerging countries to treat their major health threats. As the physician organization, we also focus on outreaching programs to contribute to the betterment of human health in emerging countries. What are your thoughts behind Gilead’s huge support on those countries?
Gilead makes it a priority to increase access to its medicines for people who can benefit from them, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay. Unfortunately, diseases like HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis are taking the heaviest toll in countries with limited resources and limited healthcare infrastructure. In terms of treatment access, we apply the same focus on innovation and collaboration that drives Gilead research efforts. Today, 4.8 million people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries are receiving Gilead antiretroviral medicines through our initiatives, and that is the result of partnership with governments, public health experts, patient advocates and generic manufacturing groups.
As a scientist, a CEO, and a leader in healthcare arena, what would be your advice to medical students in our organization who are expected to be physicians in few years?
The accelerating pace of technological and medical innovation is very exciting. It’s critical to be agile – to be able to seize new opportunities quickly and change direction when circumstances warrant. It’s also critical to be perseverant. Effecting change – whether through scientific innovation or delivery of healthcare – doesn’t happen overnight. I’d say that these characteristics, and getting the right balance between them, are a part of success in many different professions
WKMO is a global organization of physicians with Korean heritage. Do you have any personal memories or relationships with Korea or Korean?
A close friend and colleague of mine, Choung Kim, is a Korean national and chemist who worked at Bristol-Myers and Gilead for more than 30 years. He is an inventor of Tamiflu, the first oral antiviral for the treatment and prevention of influenza. Over the years I have appreciated his insight and advice.
Additionally, many of our therapeutic advances have been in the area of liver disease, including hepatitis B, which disproportionately affects Asians. I’ve had the opportunity to meet regularly with Korean physicians around the United States and at conferences around the world to seek their perspectives on the clinical management of chronic hepatitis B and C. I’ve also traveled to South Korea and worked with leading experts and health officials in the country to identify how we can partner to meet the needs of physicians and patients in South Korea.
John Martin, CEO of Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Dr. Martin joined Gilead Sciences in 1990 and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer. He served as President and Chief Executive Officer from 1996 through May 2008. Prior to joining Gilead, Dr. Martin held several leadership positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Syntex Corporation. Dr. Martin is a member of the Board of Directors of the California Healthcare Institute. He also serves on the University of Southern California Board of Trustees. Dr. Martin previously served as President of the International Society for Antiviral Research, Chairman of the Board of Directors of BayBio and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the California Healthcare Institute. He served on the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases Council, the Board of Directors of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago, the Board of Trustees of Golden Gate University and the External Scientific Advisory Board of the University of California School of Global Health. Additionally, Dr. Martin served on the Centers for Disease Control/Health Resources and Services Administration’s Advisory Committee on HIV and STD Prevention and Treatment and was a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Dr. Martin holds a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago and an MBA in marketing from Golden Gate University. He has received the Isbell Award from the American Chemical Society and the Gertrude B. Elion Award for Scientific Excellence from the International Society for Antiviral Research. In 2008, Dr. Martin was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering of the National Academies.