ELITE 2018 Transformational Leader Sean Maenpaa of Novartis Oncology

Sean Maenpaa

Director, Early Commercial Strategy

Novartis Oncology

Thinking Global

Yes, Sean Maenpaa helped to launch Revlimid for Celgene in the U.S. market, which is one of the biggest grossing cancer drugs in the world, but he doesn’t even consider that to be his greatest achievement with that brand. What he is most proud of: Taking Revlimid—and Celgene—global. He was the first to bring Celgene to Europe as well as other countries such as Japan.

Establishing Revlimid in Europe also meant winning back patients’ trust. Sean had to stand up in front of a group of victims of thalidomide—an anti-nausea drug marketed in Germany in the 1950s, which ultimately caused infants to be born with phocomelia (malformation of the limbs). Considering their mistrust of the industry, Sean had to ensure that these highly engaged victims of thalidomide would be heard throughout the clinical trial process for the closely related drug, Revlimid, which was embarking on clinical trials in Europe. Later, as the drug was going through the approval process, Sean also supported a named patient program to help end-stage patients with refractory myeloma gain access to this life-saving treatment.

Sean has also never been one to shy away from risk. Back in 2012, he seized the opportunity to lead a generics oncology startup—Network Oncology, Inc. “Access to cancer drugs is still a big problem for a lot of patients,” Sean explains, “so we wanted to add generics to the market with good pricing as well as provide an extra element of support for patients.”

After investors took over the company, Sean moved on, eventually landing at Novartis. Currently, he is tasked with exploring new opportunities for a whole plethora of emerging targets, including targeted therapies, immuno-oncology drugs, and CAR-T. His current goal: Build an acute myeloid leukemia (AML) industry leading franchise for Novartis.

Further down the road, Sean has another goal in mind.

“The only thing I haven’t done in my career is become a general manager of a country,” Sean says. “But, I currently have a career path that would get me to that point, so maybe I will run a country for Novartis one day.”


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