RARE feat. Vincent Metzler
On this episode of RARE, we welcomed Vincent Metzler - CEO and board member of startup biopharma company; Kither Biotech. Since completing his PhD in Molecular Biology, Vincent has progressed through commercial roles, working with several rare and orphan products in Europe and joining us to talk us through his journey to C-suite.
Vincent studied Molecular Biology in France and his PhD in Switzerland in the 1990s. He completed an early project for gene therapy using antisense RNA. During that time, it became clear to Vincent that he was not striving for an academic career and didn’t want to deliver scientific publications, he felt he wanted to deliver something more concrete to society.
This was also the time when a company fairly unknown in Switzerland, called Amgen, was expanding across Europe. Vincent joined the Swiss team as a Sales Rep when there were only a handful of employees. Thanks to the expansion of the team he could access the role of Product Manager for Aranesp in oncology and successfully launched the drug in Switzerland.
He went on to spend a couple of years at Roche, first as Product Manager for Switzerland then moving to the headquarters as International Product Manager, both in oncology.
In 2008, he decided to gain some international experience, joining Miltenyi Biotec in Germany. There he was offered his first managerial responsibility as Business Unit Manager, and his entry into the biotech world where it became clear this was the world he wanted to be in.
In 2010 he came back to Switzerland, joining the European Alexion team in their expansion across the non-EU5 countries within the field of Rare Diseases. With the Marketing team, they successfully launched Soliris in several geographies, from the Nordics to Russia, Central Eastern Europe, Turkey and the Middle East. In more than six fantastic years he took over further responsibilities up to the Commercial Head for the Soliris franchise in EMEA.
As Alexion became larger, Vincent felt it was the right time to move back into a small biotech company, when he joined a company based in Sweden: Wilson Therapeutics. In his role as VP - Commercial Planning and Launch Strategy, he ensured that the company had a long-term commercial vision while driving its Rare Disease asset through the clinical development phases. This contributed to the successful acquisition of Wilson Therapeutics by Alexion in 2018.
After the acquisition, Vincent joined the European team of Atara Biotherapeutics, again with only a handful of employees in Switzerland, as VP - Marketing and Commercial Operations. This provided him with a unique opportunity to gain expertise in the very specialized Cell Therapy world. When Atara decided in 2020 not to commercialize itself in Europe, he supported the company in identifying a commercial partner, which led to a collaboration with Pierre Fabre.
During that time he joined the Board of Directors of Kither Biotech, a small company based in Italy and dedicated to developing inhalation therapies for rare respiratory diseases. He supported the team in their series B fundraising, and once they successfully closed this round he took over the position of CEO of the company in early 2022.
When talking about the role of a CEO, Vincent talks about the role as an enjoyable mix of all the different business aspects you must deal with: interacting with all the internal and external stakeholders; defining and implementing the company’s strategy; shaping the future of the company. Being the CEO of a small biotech adds another layer - you must take the right decisions very quickly, it is a very fast-moving environment in a very dynamic marketplace.
Vincent reflects on the challenges faced in his career and talks about how there was no one single big challenge, but rather a recurring challenge over the more than 20 years spent in the business. He talks about facing resistance from people who might think differently, hence you must always acquire the right knowledge, skills and facts to overcome these moments of resistance. This resistance can have different causes but is often reinforced by cultural differences and is a continuous learning process.
At the end of the interview, I asked Vincent what piece of advice he would give to people entering the biopharma industry today and his advice was linked to his answer about the challenge of facing resistance: Don’t stop learning how other people think, understand why they act in a specific way, find and defend your way of thinking, and act in a productive way. Especially coming from the academic world, where success is a measure of the number of scientific publications you deliver, when you want to succeed in the biopharma industry you must include the human factor in the equation. Develop yourself and develop your network, you will rely on the support of others to build your career.
Once again, a special thanks to Vincent for taking the time to feature and share his views and his experience so far.
If you would like to connect with Vincent or have any questions relating to the blog, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org