From studying medicine to leading teams building and launching AbbVie’s pipeline, see the path that our R&D chief operating officer took to support patients all over the globe.
In the “Magnified” series, we take a closer look at the life experiences and career journeys that have shaped AbbVie’s leaders. Meet Nicholas Donoghoe, our R&D chief operating officer. Nicholas knew he wanted to be a doctor for as long as he can remember, but never imagined he’d end up helping change medicine for the better on a global scale. See how his journey put this father of two on the path to becoming our R&D chief operating officer.
I knew for as long as I can remember that I wanted to be a physician and one of the people I was inspired by was a pioneering, early obstetrician-gynecologist in our family in Louisville, Kentucky. I grew up hearing stories about him, and the impact he had on the entire region where my mom and dad were both born. That ability to apply emerging science to change the lives of generations fascinated me, even at a young age.
While in medical school, I was lucky enough to work with mentors on developing new surgical techniques and devices. That experience got me really interested in how to go from a challenge in the operating room, to an idea for a product, to actually making a new device and changing clinical practice, which was a total mystery to me. So, I joined McKinsey to figure out how to do that.
At McKinsey I got to work with impressive teammates from many different backgrounds, from Ph.D.s to lawyers to physicists, to solve complex business challenges. The art of problem solving with clients to advance healthcare really captured my imagination. So, after I graduated medical school, I chose to stay with McKinsey and one year turned into two, which eventually turned into 10 more. This experience let me work across five continents on countless different challenges and really see what it took to innovate in medicine from many perspectives.
While at McKinsey, I had a chance to work with Abbott in the early days of preparing to launch AbbVie and set its own course as a new company. I saw leadership’s commitment to patients and its investment to continue raising standards of care. I was very impressed by AbbVie's ability to bring innovative therapies in immunology, oncology and infectious disease to patients across the globe. That ability to touch millions of lives each year, on a truly global scale, across so many therapeutic areas is something I could never have done practicing medicine.
Ultimately though, what led me to join AbbVie was my wife. On the flight home from our honeymoon, she asked what would become a life-changing question, “why aren’t you working at AbbVie? It's obvious how much you love them.” She was absolutely right and as soon as we landed, I began discussing the opportunity to join and create a new group called the Innovation team.
Since then, I've had a chance to work in several different roles across our commercial and R&D organizations and in our aesthetics and therapeutics businesses. Each of these experiences helped me to see new connections across the business and to continually ask how we can find new ways of working together to accomplish amazing things.
I have a chance to work with many groups across R&D to build, deliver and launch our pipeline. As a company we realize that great ideas can occur anywhere so our search and evaluation, business development and alliance management teams work together to bring in transformative medicines.
Whether a medicine is discovered in our labs or brought in through external innovation, we are uniquely positioned to develop these medicines with our in-house clinical development operations (CDO) and innovation teams. Every day they are finding new ways of enrolling people in our trials and generating the evidence we need to gain approvals and access across the globe.
At this point our global and U.S medical affairs organizations, as well as health economics and outcomes research (HEOR), transformation and corporate strategy teams play an enormous role. They help to demonstrate the value of our medicines, and the meaningful impact our work has on our patients. The opportunity to work across the R&D continuum – from early clinical, to launch and life cycle management – is an incredible privilege and what excites me every morning to go to work.
My role is to build an inclusive culture, where good ideas can come from everyone and we’re always looking to raise the bar on our own performance. I focus on asking questions and ensuring we are using data-driven decision making. I support teams in helping see the bigger picture and breakdown roadblocks to getting things done. Becoming a father to two little girls has also helped me think about the meaning of our work for the next generation and become even more focused as a leader.
Going back to my dream as a young boy – I am driven by the ability to work all day on therapies that can change peoples’ lives – give them back their function and time with their families, as well as their ability to live life on their terms. And to be able to do that on a global scale across so many areas of medicine is incredibly rewarding and in many ways is an even bigger dream than I could have ever imagined.
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