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Improving the health of the drugs industry

By Liu Jie  (China Daily)

10:34, April 11, 2013

An employee at Eli Lilly and Co's China Research and Development Center. The US-based international drugmaker puts 20 percent of its sales revenue into R&D every year and set up an R&D center in Shanghai last May. [Provided to China Daily]

Eli Lilly chief Lechleiter sees China as the company's most promising market

John C. Lechleiter says he loves work and believes everyone has to find his or her own right answer about a work-life balance.

"I find it's very difficult to separate them out: That is work and this is life," said the chairman, president and chief executive officer of the world's fifth-largest biopharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co.

With a very supportive wife, Lechleiter said he is very conscious about getting enough sleep at night and tries to get regular exercise. All of these are because, as he said: "I try to make sure that when I need to work hard, I am able to do that."

In addition to being CEO of Lilly, he also works for industrial associations - as chairman of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and president of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations - and on the boards of many institutes, such as the Life Sciences Foundation and the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership. Taking multiple roles, none of them easy, means Lechleiter's life is full of meetings, conferences, forums and business trips.

Challenging works

Like many innovative drug producers, Lilly has faced a tough time since 2011, with patents of the company's several blockbuster drugs expiring, leading to generic drugs sold at much lower prices booming in the market. Meanwhile, the development of new medicines has not been completed. That's a crucial threat to any pharmaceutical company that relies on research and development.

"Lilly has been clear from the very beginning: We intend to invest properly in R&D and really depend on our pipeline to help resume growth after this period (of patent expiration)," said Lechleiter, adding that the drugmaker will continue to put 20 percent of its sales revenue into R&D.

He also marked up developing and emerging markets, including China, and exploring the wider potential of current products as part of a strategy to lift the company out of these hard times.

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