Case Study

Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology/ Product Innovation

Transcending Boundaries

Finding a Neuroscience Leader for China’s Growing Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketplace

A multinational healthcare company was seeking a highly specialized leader to drive its neuroscience business in China. The $40 billion company researches, develops, and manufactures a wide range of innovative pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and consumer healthcare products. Having invested more than $500 million on research and development in China, the client is one of that country’s largest pharmaceutical companies. To secure its domestic market prominence and extend its successes, the organization sought a new executive to run its neuroscience business in China. The new executive needed to be a Chinese national fluent in English as well as a neuroscientist with experience in leading a research organization. Critically, the executive needed to embody the ethical qualities required to lead a research organization as well as the ability to manage a business unit.

The specified skills were extremely precise and challenging, which necessitated a search that extended beyond traditional pharmaceutical executives and into the realm of academia and research. To identify and recruit the best candidates, Egon Zehnder partnered with senior executives from the client’s China operations team and deployed a cross-industry group led by the firm’s Health practice. Despite the highly specific parameters, our systematic and global search covered top executives across the industry spectrum as well as academic leaders. This exhaustive approach was needed in order to identify a roster of candidates with the unique mix of experiences and competencies required for success.

The search was fast-tracked across our global Health team and spanned Asia, Europe, and North America. The successful hire possessed a unique combination of experiences that meshed with the client’s needs. He was educated in China and skilled in English, thanks to a year of postdoctoral training in the United States and a term as a visiting scientist at a U.S. biopharmaceutical firm. The executive went on to become a leader in neuroscience drug discovery at a top-tier U.S. research university while maintaining a faculty position at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In addition, he actively advised pharmaceutical companies and start-ups and was highly respected by business and science peers in both the United States and China. These skills made him the right choice to lead this critical neuroscience business unit in China.

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