ELITE 2019 Leader of the Future Tameka M. Nicholson of AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals

Tameka M. Nicholson

Global Commercial Innovation, Digital & Data Strategy Lead, Marketing, Oncology Business Unit

AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals

A Champion Collaborator

Prior to 2014, AstraZeneca was mostly concentrated in the cardiovascular space. But then the company acquired Bristol-Myers Squibb’s diabetes division and launched one of the most successful drugs in that therapeutic class: Farxiga. In 2018 the company entered another new therapeutic space and is thriving with Imfinzi, the first immunotherapy for AstraZeneca in oncology for stage III non-small cell lung cancer. Although very different paths to success, one thing links them together: Tameka M. Nicholson.

When AstraZeneca acquired BMS’ diabetes portfolio, Tameka was put in charge of integrating BMS’ 1,300 diabetes sales force into the AstraZeneca organization to form a 3,000-person sales force. And that was a division that BMS had only recently acquired itself when it took over Amylin Pharmaceuticals. So, Tameka had to take people from three different company cultures and merge them into one cohesive unit. This led to successes in both the oral and injectable markets. Continuing this momentum, Tameka moved on to the marketing team where she had great success in a competitive market with the launch of Farxiga and Xigduo XR. Tameka attributes this success to her dedication to patients.

“Whether I am in sales or marketing,” Tameka says, “everything I do is about making sure patients have access to medications that will transform their lives.”

That remained true when Tameka took on the task of launching Imfinzi for two indications. The first was for locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma, but the brand really made a splash when the company announced the approval for its stage III lung cancer indication at ESMO 2017. Tameka and her team then had a showstopper at the ASCO 2017 and 2018 conferences with an LED wall featuring floating molecules that formed a marlin with the efficacy data playing in the background. In addition, they canvassed the surrounding airports with Imfinzi banners and chalk art around various areas of the convention centers and nearby hotels. Not only has this helped AstraZeneca quickly gain ground in becoming a leader in lung cancer but the campaign has been so successful that other markets outside of the U.S. have requested support in how they can leverage the brand as well.


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