The Astellas Way

Reflections on My First Year as President of Astellas Americas

By Jim Robinson The Astellas Way

Apr 26, 2017

During a recent employee town hall meeting, a colleague from our financial team reminded all of us why we do what we do.

Eighteen years ago, Mike was diagnosed with late-stage lymphoma. When he told a friend that he might not live a month or a year, his friend responded with the following:

“You know what? Just try to be alive tomorrow. Because you don’t know what they’ll come up with.

“You don’t know what treatments will be available.

“You don’t know what they’ll be able to do.”

At the time, Mike didn’t realize who “they” were. He does now.

As I look back at my first year as president of Astellas Americas, I’m grateful to Mike and every one of our colleagues who come to work every day to help improve and extend lives.

Without question, Astellas is a different type of company. When I talk to our team members, I hear the stories of what makes us different.

I often hear about our partnerships and recent acquisitions. From innovative research collaborations with leading academic institutions such as Dana Farber and MD Anderson Cancer Center to drug pipeline efforts made stronger with companies like Affinivax, Ganymed and Ogeda SA, we know that we’re better when we partner with others.

I equally hear about patient engagement. From our most recent patient advocacy summit in Washington, D.C. to the formation of our Patient Experience Group, we’re making a point to listen to patients and participate in the conversation wherever it’s happening.

To ensure we can do this effectively, I recently announced a new employee initiative that prepares our company for the future in the Americas. Over the coming months, we’ll identify efficiencies to further invest in initiatives that help us holistically capture the patient voice.

Expansion and growth is another prevailing theme. A few weeks ago, I was proud to join the Astellas Farma Colombia team for the official launch of our second Latin American affiliate. The meetings and celebrations in Bogota proved a huge success, paving the way toward new positive relationships in the region.

What have I learned along the way?

1. Everyone has a “why.” Just as Mike shared his highly personal battle against cancer, our company is full of noteworthy stories and experiences that drive our work. Our very own Jeff Winton, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, recently shared his journey at our Patient Advocacy Summit and on our blog. It’s definitely worth a read if you haven't already.

2. We must always go beyond the medicine. Without question, we’re at our best when we’re developing life-saving therapies that address unmet medical needs. However, this doesn’t stop in our laboratories. As we make a point to understand what patients want and expect, it’s critical that we understand and support their full experience to better health from every angle - clinical, financial and emotional.  From day one of the patient journey, we want to help improve outcomes by being an integral part of the care delivery process. 

3. Our impact begins at the local level. The cities and communities where our employees live and work are home to us. Many of our team members serve on boards of charitable foundations and make a point to give back. I’ve been fortunate to serve on the Board of MATTER, a Chicago-based incubator of healthcare innovators who are tackling some of the most pressing healthcare challenges every day. And our Astellas US Foundation has been doing marvelous work supporting STEM education in rural communities - helping to prepare the next generation of US scientists who will help make future innovations against unmet medical needs a reality.

4. We can’t accept the status quo. The promise of innovation and medical invention is what drives our company. We’re motivated by the simple fact that there is more work to be done and we cannot stop until we know those that need us are being taken care of. In a highly dynamic healthcare environment, we must always assess where we are and how we’re running our business to ensure we’re operating in the best way possible to serve patients while maintaining strength and leadership as a company.

5. We must make a point to listen. We all have ideas for how we can advance our mission together. Similarly, while a focus on the patient is embedded in our culture, we can always be making a point to listen more and build on strategic programs that bring the patient closer to the drug development process. This will enable us to define, demonstrate and deliver better value for patients.

Above all, I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of an organization that is making its mark on medicine. I’ve spent nearly three decades in the biopharmaceutical sector, and I can say without hesitation that we’re living in the most consequential period. It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of the Astellas story, and I’m looking forward to waking up tomorrow and joining all of our colleagues in writing our next chapter. It’s going to be an exciting one.

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