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Takeda CEO Sees a Bright Future in Globalized Pharmaceuticals Market

Pursuing a Long-term Vision Grounded in Deeply Rooted Values

Takeda President and CEO Christophe Weber was a featured speaker at the 21st Nikkei Global Management Forum held in Tokyo on October 28–29. Organized by Japan’s leading business publisher Nikkei, the forum is one of the most prestigious management conferences in Asia, with global corporate executives and intellectuals attending from around the world.

Good progress on Shire integration  
With Takeda’s acquisition of Shire—the largest ever by a Japanese company—just 9 months ago, discussion naturally turned to how integration was progressing. “We are in the middle of our integration with Shire and haven’t lost any business momentum ” said Weber, noting that 94% of Shire’s employees had already been assigned positions in the new “One Takeda”.

The acquisition has both complimented and accelerated Takeda’s strategic goal, set in 2017, to be more global and more competitive. Weber explained how the integration of Shire had helped give Takeda the scale it would need to compete successfully in today’s global pharmaceutical industry with its ever higher R&D costs associated with developing innovative biopharmaceuticals. The integration had also expanded Takeda’s product pipeline, particularly in the rare disease area, which would allow it to meet important areas of unmet patient needs.

Diverse management with a common vision
Takeda’s globalization is reflected in its diverse executive management team: the 18 members are from 11 different countries. Commenting on the observation that Japanese executives are now a minority, Weber pointed out that everyone on the team is now a minority, but “we share a common purpose, strategy and vision.” He explained how Takeda’s Global Induction Forums have helped create a “common culture.” Senior managers spend a week together to learn about the company’s long history and values, and then take those insights back to their home countries.

Weber observed that Shire, a much younger company, had not developed such deep-rooted values and that many of its employees were looking forward to joining Takeda for its “strong culture.”

With Shire’s management being brought on board, Weber emphasized that while diversity is important, leaders must be fully aligned with Takeda’s value system: “To lead a company like Takeda today, you need to have global experience—the earlier the better.” In contrast to the traditional Japanese seniority system, Takeda is now developing managers faster and exposing them to international experience early on in their careers.

Long-term, values-based global outlook
Describing the challenges ahead, Weber identified access to medicines as a key issue. He explained that since each country has a very specific healthcare system, Takeda is creating a “local-centric” global organization flexible enough to bring the innovative medicines it develops to local markets at prices that allowed widespread take-up among healthcare providers to patients who need them.

Despite the ongoing integration and pressure from some investors for short-term results, Weber stressed that such concerns would not distract the company from its long-term objectives, with decisions that can affect the business 10 to 20 years into the future. As an example, Takeda embarked on a 10-year partnership with the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application directed by Nobel Laureate Shinya Yamanaka.

As Takeda presses ahead with its global expansion, Weber was clear about the centrality of Takeda’s culture and values. “Our values are driving the way we think,” adding that in the process of globalization, “It is critical to keep our values and what makes Takeda a family.”