Excellence award in hand, Novartis CEO turns nostalgic

Novartis CEO Vasant (Vas) Narasimhan, who received the prestigious Genome Valley Excellence at BioAsia 2020 on Tuesday, went down the memory lane recalling how his grandfather was offered an internship in Ciba Geigy, the firm that would later become Novartis.

Expressing gratitude to his grandparents and parents for the sacrifices they made to see their children do well in life, the Indian-origin head of the global pharma major said his grandfather graduated from the Delhi University in Pharmacology.

“One of the most remarkable stories of his journey is shortly after graduating, he went to Pune to work in the pharmaceutical firms that were developing there. He was given an internship to actually go to Basel to Ciba Geigy which, of course, would later become Novartis, the company I am here as the CEO,” he said to loud applause from the packed hall in HICC here.

Mr. Narasimhan said the award was an incredible honour and it also was a time to reflect that he was standing on the “shoulders of giants, including being on this stage [because of his] grandparents”, who hailed from Tirupati, and his parents. He also played a few pictures of his family, including one of his grandparents.

Sharing a few perspectives on ‘Reimagining Medicine’ and some of the big trends shaping the pharma industry, he said cell and gene therapies are set to become the future of medicine. He also underscored the significance of improving access to medicines and use technology to improve life expectancy. Speaking on management techniques, he said the need was to have an ‘Unboss culture’. Noting that he would prefer Bhagavat Gita for lessons in leadership and man management, he said people drove performance.

The Novartis-Hyderabad centre is the second largest for the company and employed 6,000 of the India headcount of 8,000. The facility here played a pivotal role in bringing the latest innovations with the support of technology that could solve many problems of the world.

Stating this, he announced the launch of Biome India, a digital innovation hub in Hyderabad and the first such in Asia. Through Biome India, Novartis will engage with startups and innovators passionate about healthcare. The other Novartis Biomes are in San Francisco, Paris and London.

A release said the digital innovation hub here is aimed at boosting the connection and interaction between Novartis and partners from across the digital ecosystem, from nimble startups and academia to the biggest players in the industry. It will act as a bridge to the external ecosystem, enabling Novartis teams to better discover, develop and drive collaborations that transform innovative initiatives into impactful and scalable solutions for patients.

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Written by Xavier Augustin
Xavier Augustin is the Founder and CEO of Y-Axis Overseas Careers, India's No.1 Overseas Careers and Immigration Consultant.