I recently had the privilege of interviewing Ginger Graham, the CEO who led Amylin during the launch of its two first-in-class medicines, Byetta and Symlin. A fascinating woman with a very personal leadership style, she had the following to say about her past achievements and her future hopes.
Nadia: How did you personally make a difference at Amylin during your tenure?
Ginger: I had the opportunity to join a dedicated and growing organization, and I focused on attracting the talent and resources required to launch two first-in-class medicines. As a leader in the organization, it was important to demonstrate enthusiasm for our mission, as well as personal commitment to the actions required to gain approval for and subsequently commercialize Byetta and Symlin. It takes an entire organization to change the way people think about how to treat a complex disease like diabetes, and hopefully Amylin will make a very significant impact on patients.
Nadia: What is Amylin’s biggest task at this point?
Ginger: Amylin’s challenge is to educate the largest healthcare market in the world about new science, new medicines, and new mechanisms of action, so that people living with diabetes have the opportunity to improve their health. By introducing first-in-class medicines, Amylin has signed up for a very big task: reaching tens of thousands of physicians and other healthcare professionals with information and support as they learn about new tools in the battle against diabetes. It is a massive undertaking and will be the continued focus of the company for years to come.
Part of the company’s responsibility is to continually advance the clinical understanding of both Symlin and Byetta and to improve the ease of use for patients. A great example is the long-acting-release version of Byetta. In early human trials, LAR demonstrated unprecedented levels of improvement in blood sugar control, accompanied by weight loss. It is the company’s responsibility to further its research with LAR, complete the ongoing phase 3 trial, and, if the results are positive, bring forward a brand new therapy for even more patients.
Nadia: What personality characteristics were most useful in your position as CEO?
Ginger: Big goals need vision, persistence, and hard work in order to be successfully achieved. These are traits that were exhibited by my parents and the community in which I grew up. The employees of Amylin have been willing to sacrifice their personal needs on behalf of the hope that our medicines will be truly life-changing for people who need them. We are very fortunate today to be able to see the results of that persistence and hard work, and we still hold the vision of changing the lives of people with diabetes as an organization.
Nadia: What is your advice to young women coming up against the glass ceiling?
Ginger: There is so much work to be done and so many opportunities that I think everyone can find a way to make a difference. It is important to have a clear sense of yourself and a sense of humor, because there are always obstacles and challenges, and certainly some people will present more of a challenge than others. I was lucky to have been told early in my life that I could do anything I wanted to, and I believed it.
Nadia: Regarding your future plans to help fix the US healthcare system: What are the biggest problems with the system now?
Ginger: The US is the wealthiest and most educated country on earth, and yet we face many challenges in healthcare delivery. I have been in healthcare for over twenty years and know that technology can produce new opportunities for a longer and healthier life. But there is a growing population of uninsured, and a complex and bureaucratic system that increases the likelihood of high cost services, frequent errors, and redundant and excessive utilization. The innovation required to bring forward life-saving therapies is expensive. Human health is the goal. Our challenge is to engage all constituencies in the dialogue necessary to figure out a balanced and appropriate way to manage the resources devoted to healthcare delivery. While I have no current plans to seek political office, I am committed to doing all I can to further that dialogue which can positively impact public policy.