Know the Top Pharma CEOs in the World

Our list of top pharma CEOs goes beyond annual results and truly evaluates their long-term performance in the ever-thriving pharmaceutical industry.

As we grapple the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, there are certain measures that industry leaders will take in order to effectively respond to severe business setbacks and strategize for recovery. The long-term impact of COVID-19 is clearly visible in many industries, including health care and pharmaceutical. But, a clear winner in the crisis remains to be top pharma CEOs who have grasped the opportunity to become a global manufacturing hub.

Currently, there are about 200 major pharmaceutical companies in the world, and some of them are headed by dynamic pharma CEOs who have turned the way the business is run and made tremendous profits for the companies and invested in some path changing pharma research.

Top Pharma Industry CEOs

In our list, the world’s top pharma CEOs aren’t a household name. But, their long-term focus on social and environmental issues have helped them carve a niche for themselves.


Our list of top pharma CEOs goes beyond annual results and truly evaluates their long-term performance in the ever-thriving pharmaceutical industry.

Werner Baumann, Bayer

Werner Baumann is from Germany and he joined Bayer in 1988 in the finance department. He gradually made his way up to the position of CEO in 2016, having spent nearly 30 years in the company.

Baumann in his tenure since 2016 has made some bold moves, the most traumatic being the Monsanto Bayer merger. The $63 billion deal has landed Bayer with a slew of lawsuits, nearly 42,000 in numbers, and damage payments running into millions and still counting.

Bayer’s market capitalization is now close to what the company paid for Monsanto alone. Shareholders passed a no-confidence motion against the CEO in 2019, a first in the recent history of Germany.

Baumann has tried to stem the tide with a deal offering a total of roughly $10 billion for current and future plaintiffs who allege the company’s Roundup herbicide causes cancer.

He has started to build back investor confidence with the support of board members and held town hall meetings with company employees all over the world to rebuild trust.

People who know him call him astute and cerebral. He is known to remember the minutest details and can reel off the number of participants in any ongoing clinical trial in his company. Baumann studied economics at RWTH Aachen University and the University of Cologne.

Oliver Brandicourt, Sanofi

Oliver Brandicourt, was CEO of Sanofi till 2019. Brandicourt is a medical doctor and was with Pfizer earlier. He was CEO of Bayer Healthcare AG, before being appointed as CEO of Sanofi in April 2015. The company has more than 110,000 employees. As CEO, Brandicourt grappled with many issues. The company’s mainline diabetes drug was facing pressure due to competition and pricing, and the company had no new drugs being developed in its labs.

Faced with a tough situation, he came up with a restructuring plan of cost-cutting, focusing on key areas, and working on its rare disease group Genzyme. Brandicourt also went about scouting for acquisitions. Sanofi inked deals with Ablynx and Bioverativ, boosting its rare disease presence. The company also made a swap deal with Boehringer Ingelheim in 2016, exchanging its animal health group for Boehnringer’s consumer healthcare business.

Brandicourt’s tenure was marred by the launch of the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. In 2017, in Philippines, it was found to cause serious bouts of Dengue in people who had not had the disease earlier.

Olivier Brandicourt studied medicine in Paris where he specialized in Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine (University of Paris V). Brandicourt has 28 years of global experience in the pharmaceutical industry.

John Milligan, Gilead Sciences

John Milligan is CEO of Gilead Sciences, a California-based company, which was set up in 1987. Milligan has been with Gilead since 1990. He was appointed CEO of Gilead Sciences in 2016.

He previously worked in a variety of positions in the biotechnology business. Milligan received his bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and a doctorate from the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign.

Most recently, in 2016, he was named in the Forbes Global Game Changers List, which represents exceptional leaders and innovators in various industries.

He has been a key player in a number of acquisitions for the company. He paid $11 billion in 2012 to buyout Pharmasset Inc. That transaction allowed Gilead to transition from a developer of HIV drugs to become a leader in new treatments for hepatitis C. Gilead recently acquired Kite Pharma for $12 billion, a leader in cell therapy treatments.

John Milligan received compensation last year totaling nearly $26 million.

Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson

Alex Gorsky is chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson. He joined the company in 1988 as a sales representative. In 2001, he was appointed president of Janssen, and in 2003, he was named Company Group Chairman of Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceuticals business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Gorsky left Johnson & Johnson in 2004 to join the Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. He returned to Johnson & Johnson in 2008 as company group chairman. Gorsky became chief executive officer on April 26, 2012, and chairman on December 28, 2012.

Gorsky has been named one of the “100 Most Inspiring Leaders” by Pharma Voice. He is known as an advocate of diversity and equality at the workplace. Gorsky is a member of the board of directors of IBM, and the Congressional Medal of Honor board of directors. In 2014, Gorsky was given the Joseph Wharton Leadership Award and the CADCA Humanitarian of the Year Award, as well as an Honorary Doctorate from Thomas Jefferson University. Alex Gorsky has seen his fair share of scrutiny while the company has been embroiled in lawsuits regarding its baby powder. But it did not affect his personal bottom line much in 2019.

Gorsky scored $25.37 million in total pay, a nearly $5 million boost over 2018, thanks to an increase in the value of his pension.

Gorsky invokes some strong feelings about his leadership style. He has been named as CADCA’s “Humanitarian of the Year” and one of Pharma Voice’s “100 Most Inspiring People” and also reviled for marketing J&J’s Risperdal drug to the elderly and children – despite its disturbing side effects. The fines for the medicine cost the company $2 billion, but the sales brought them a profit of $30 billion.

Grosky has many challenges ahead and only time will tell if his “get things done at all costs” and “end justifies the means” style of functioning works for the company’s falling share prices.

Alex Gorsky joined the army and attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He graduated in 1982 and served as an Army Ranger before finishing his service with the rank of captain.

Stephane Bancel, Moderna Therapeutics

Stéphane Bancel is a French businessman and the CEO and 9 percent owner of Moderna, an American biotechnology company.

Stéphane Bancel joined Moderna Therapeutics in 2011 leaving his position as CEO at bioMérieux as he wanted to be a part of the novel platform developing messenger RNA therapeutics.

Bancel has helped Moderna Therapeutics raise significant venture funding. Bancel is credited with filing nearly 45 patents in the field of messenger RNA technology. Development of mRNA therapeutics creates the ability to produce therapeutic proteins in vivo, allowing for drug development in multiple disease areas, including cardiovascular, oncology, and rare diseases. Under his leadership, BioMerieux saw tremendous growth in sales, and he acquired 10 companies in the U.S., Europe and Asia/Pacific.

During his tenure, Bancel also enhanced bioMérieux’s position as a global leader in clinical microbiology. Before joining bioMérieux, Bancel was Managing Director of Eli Lilly in Belgium and Executive Director of Global Manufacturing Strategy and Supply Chain at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis. He was also a senior partner at the leading venture capital firm Flagship Ventures.

Bancel holds a Master of Engineering from École Central Paris, a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He was elected a 2009 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in France. He was also named the Best CEO in the Biotechnology sector in 2011.

Anna Domanska
Anna Domanska is an Industry Leaders Magazine author possessing wide-range of knowledge for Business News. She is an avid reader and writer of Business and CEO Magazines and a rigorous follower of Business Leaders.

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