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he was invited to join the Vertex board. He says he felt right at home with the culture Boger fostered. “I like new ideas, creativity, doing things differently. Challenging convention. If you get a group of smart people in a room and you decide to do things, you can do amazing things, things that were thought to be impossible. I always had that idea, and Josh always had that idea, too,” Emmens says.
The task in front of Emmens is certainly something thought to be impossible a few years ago. His goals will be to launch telaprevir on a blockbuster trajectory, follow that up with a couple of big steps for patients with cystic fibrosis, and then show Wall Street that there’s more there in the Vertex pipeline, to keep momentum building. The way to do that, Emmens says, is to rally people around a truly compelling vision, he says.
“It’s about getting a group of people together, and developing a vision that seems impossible. Then achieving it. It’s not about proving anything. It’s about involving those people in an undertaking that they’ll remember their whole life,” Emmens says. “The people at Astra Merck did the same thing. We had a reunion of Astra Merck a couple years ago. About 140 people showed up. Ten years later. Why did they do that? They were part of a very special moment in their careers. They had respect for each other. This company can have exactly the same thing. This is a defining year for the company.”
Emmens definitely sees himself as carrying on “Josh’s dream,” which he mentioned a couple times in our conversation. (I asked Boger to comment for this story, but didn’t hear back by my deadline). Emmens stayed humble throughout our conversation, noting that he doesn’t view himself as an expert in any single aspect of pharmaceuticals, except maybe for finding the right people to surround himself with. His plan is to find people with a stomach for risk-taking, technical expertise, communications skills, and the energy to “make something greater in their career than the average person.” With the right people in place, he won’t need to be around stick around forever.
In fact, Emmens said he intends to stay in this job for only five years, because he doesn’t think a CEO should stay around any longer.
“You implement a vision and a strategy in a period of time, and it takes something primal to do that,” Emmens says. “And the world is changing the whole time you’re doing that. Are you changing fast enough? Is the team changing fast enough? Will they tell you that things are no longer the way they should be? You need a new set of eyes to come in and look at the company about every five years. I think you can stay around too long.”
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