Eli Lilly CEO Meets with Michigan Students
Healthcare is an investment—not a cost, says Sidney Taurel.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Healthcare, like technology, should be viewed as an investment rather than a cost, says Eli Lilly CEO Sidney Taurel.
“The more countries invest in healthcare, the wealthier they become,” the Eli Lilly chairman and president told University of Michigan business, engineering and liberal arts students at a fireside chat held at the Ross School of Business on Sept. 14.
Although no longer viewed as a growth industry in the U.S., pharmaceuticals is booming in China and India as those countries spend more of their gross national product on healthcare, said Taurel, who also sees both countries as a source of technology, talent, manufacturing capability and less expensive R&D. The pharmaceutical markets are developing quite fast in Brazil and Russia too, he noted.
Taurel joined Eli Lilly 34 years ago, he said, because “I liked the people I interviewed with. It was a good decision.”
Despite challenges facing the industry—the escalating cost of drugs, a significant decline in the rate of new drug approvals, patent expirations and fear of price controls—Taurel is optimistic. Thanks to science, the pharmaceutical industry is transitioning from a one-size-fits-all approach to personalized medicine. “We can avoid giving drugs to patients who might experience side effects,” said Taurel. The new business model is based on biomarkers and pharmacogenomics that make it possible to identify the patients particular medicines will help.
Sticking to principles its founder and namesake laid out 130 years ago, Eli Lilly:
- Spends more on R&D than competitors in its pursuit of breakthrough products. The firm launched nine new products in the last three years compared with seven the previous decade
- Hires more physicians and medical experts than most pharmaceutical firms.
- Stresses reliability and trustworthiness.
One example Taurel cited is the public registry of all clinical trials involving Eli Lilly products—the bad and good studies—on its Web site so people can check the results.
Abby Silverman, MBA ’06, vice president of the Healthcare & Life Science Club at the Ross School and one of the students who met with Taurel, said, “It was a fantastic opportunity for students to have an intimate talk with one of the world’s most influential leaders shaping the healthcare industry.” Silverman worked at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston before enrolling in the business school and did a marketing internship at Merck & Co. Inc. this summer.
Hiring good people is his most important task, Taurel told the students. Of Eli Lilly’s 44,000 employees, approximately 300 are University of Michigan graduates.
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Mary Jo Frank