Beyond The Printed Page | February 25, 2019

A CEO's Most Formative Leadership Experience

Source: Life Science Leader
Rob Wright author page

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
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John Leonard
John Leonard, M.D., president and CEO, Intellia Therapeutics.

Sometimes when creating a monthly print magazine, we generate more content than we have room for in an issue. The following is a good example. This Q&A with John Leonard, M.D., CEO of Intellia Therapeutics was part of our interview with him for the March 2019 issue. We’re including it here in our popular Beyond The Printed Page (BTPP) section. If you’d like to read the whole article, subscribe for free by clicking here


“Mine was when I ran the antiviral team at Abbott Laboratories,” shares Intellia Therapeutics CEO, John Leonard, M.D. “I was joining a group of three people who were in charge of the budding HIV program at Abbott in 1992.” Leonard remembers going through the prioritization process, which was very simple. “We had a chart with two axes. On the one axis was medical need, and we scored 100 percent. On the other was feasibility, and there we scored zero.” Nonetheless, Leonard’s boss felt it worth pursuing. “We never believed we would fail, which seems so crazy in retrospect,” he smiles. From that he learned a very important lesson. “Yes. It’s extremely important to have a sound and logical approach, but don’t discount the criticality of belief,” he explains. “Our belief in ourselves, each other, and our mission was absolute, and from that I learned how empowering belief can be.”

By 1996, the group discovered, developed, and launched Norvir, which was soon followed by Kaletra, both protease inhibitors indicated for the treatment of HIV, and soon the death rate from HIV/AIDS fell by two-thirds in the U.S. “That taught me what was possible in so many ways — organizationally, medically, what our industry was capable of, and how working through people can achieve incredibly meaningful results,” he concludes.