Kevin T. Conroy
President and CEO
Exact Sciences Corporation
Kevin T. Conroy was stepping into a difficult situation when he took the reins at Third Wave in 2005. The company was struggling to develop new products and was not meeting investor expectations. Conroy refocused the team on developing and earning Food and Drug Administration approval for a molecular diagnostic test for HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer. In less than three years, Third Wave had successfully developed an accurate HPV test, Cervista, completed a large clinical trial and saw it approved by the FDA.
In June 2008, Hologic acquired the company, providing shareholders with a substantial return during Conroy’s leadership.
In April 2009, Conroy became president and CEO at Exact Sciences Corporation where his confident demeanor and positive attitude enable him to lead effectively by motivating his fellow team members based on a personal devotion to the improvement of life for people with colorectal cancer.
Conroy oversees every aspect of the company’s operational strategy whether it’s research and development, employee morale or staying true to the mission to improve others’ lives. Each person who works at Exact Sciences feels a personal connection to the work and to the larger mission of eradicating colorectal cancer.
By 2013, Exact Sciences had completed one of the largest clinical cancer screening trials ever conducted, enrolling more than 10,000 patients. It showed that the company’s test detected 92 percent of patients with colon cancer.
Conroy promotes a workplace of commitment to the cause, but he wants employees to feel as strongly when they are away from the office. The company is built around five core values and has a recognition program that honors those who embody the values of innovation and leadership.
Daphne Preuss’ passion for learning and growing has allowed her to never give up in her transition from a career as an academic scientist to a leading biotechnology CEO at Chromatin, Inc.
The multinational company is improving the sustainability of agriculture around the world through innovations in sorghum, a crop that is used for food, feed and fuel.
In 2000, Preuss, a highly respected University of Chicago and Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor, raised the company’s Series A round of venture capital funding and served as chair of the business’s scientific advisory board while maintaining her professorship.
All seemed to be on track until 2004, when the company’s business leadership elected to pursue a different path that diverged from the vision Preuss and some board members felt was optimal. She left the company, but returned two years later to take on the chief operating role at a time when the company was struggling to stay afloat.
Preuss stabilized the technology program, downsized all unnecessary functions to conserve cash and negotiated the company’s first commercial deal with a major agricultural biotechnology partner — all while drawing no salary. She secured several more deals and saved the company from certain bankruptcy.
The next step was to take the company even higher. She began looking for a crop that would enable Chromatin to gain a position and grow rapidly. She chose sorghum because it was a major global crop that had not yet been improved significantly and could grow on more than 80 percent of the world’s land, including areas prone to drought. The result is a vibrant company with a strong reputation for innovation as well as high-quality products and customer service.
Timothy P. Walbert
Chairman, president and CEO
When Timothy P. Walbert became president and CEO of Horizon Pharma, he brought with him an all-star team of senior managers that would allow him to build a great specialty pharmaceutical company.
These individuals had worked with Walbert in previous roles and had expertise in commercial, scientific and operations backgrounds. They helped to form a company that was focused on long-term growth and on creating shareholder value, ultimately optimizing the benefit for patients and physicians.
One of the key moves that Walbert helped oversee was the relocation of the business from Palo Alto, California, to Chicago. The move extended the opportunity for partnerships and allowed Horizon to conduct business in one of the most dynamic markets in the country.
Horizon Pharma’s commercial and business development strategy is to develop, acquire or in-license additional innovative medicines or companies where it can execute a targeted commercial approach among specifically targeted physicians such as primary care physicians, orthopedic surgeons and rheumatologists.
As a specialty pharmaceutical company, Horizon focuses its efforts on building a sales force with business-to-business representatives. While others in the field hire life science or pharma representatives, Horizon’s decision to hire B2B reps gave the company an advantage in how physicians are approached for prescribing and adopting the products.
Walbert, who also serves as chairman, retains several board positions at biotech/pharmaceutical companies. He also serves as director for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization, ChicagoNEXT and the Greater Chicago Arthritis Foundation. Gov. Pat Quinn also recently appointed him to the Illinois Innovation Council.
His achievements with the Greater Chicago Arthritis Foundation will be honored in September when Walbert receives the Freedom of Movement award, recognizing his efforts to address the needs of arthritis patients and caregivers.