Founder-CEO Interview Series

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Hanns-Christian Mahler

Dr. Mahler is CEO & Board Member at ten23 health. He previously led the Drug Product Services (DPS) Business Unit at Lonza AG (2015-2021) and worked in various leadership roles such as Head Pharmaceutical Development & Supplies at Roche (2005-2015) and at Merck KGaA (2000-2005). He has an extensive expertise in formulation development, process development & validation, packaging/device development and integration, sterile manufacturing, and regulatory submissions with numerous IND/IMPD and BLAs.

He studied Pharmacy at the University of Mainz, Germany, holds a Ph.D. in toxicology from the Institute of Pharmacy, University of Mainz, and pharmacist specialization degrees in Toxicology & Ecology, and Pharmaceutical Technology. He has also was further trained Business and Marketing (Akad).

He is on the boards of Bionter AG and KriyaBio SA. Furthermore, he serves as Editor for Pharmaceutical Research, Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, AAPS Open Journal, and PDA Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences & Technology. Hanns-Christian has published more than 120 manuscripts and is co-inventor of more than 50 patents.

Founder-CEO Interview Series

with Hanns-Christian Mahler

Tell us more about ten23 health, why did you decide to found the company and the origin of the name. 

ten23 health is a pharmaceutical service provider, supporting our pharma and biotech customers in developing safe, usable, convenient, stable and efficient medicines for their patients. Human-centricity and sustainability are key components of how we act and operate. 

I founded the company in the belief that there is a strong need in serving Patients, People and Planet to the extent possible.

Our name relates to the “Avogadro constant”, which is 6.022 x 10 23 molecules per mole. 
Further reading on our name: The Company| ten23 health

Can you give us a snapshot of how the company has grown since its inception?

ten23 health was founded in Basel/CH in May 2021 and we announced our existence on Sept-1, 2021. We just celebrated our first birthday! Last year Sept., our organization consisted of about 25 employees. End October 2021, we acquired a company operating sterile product manufacturing (swissfillon AG in Visp, Valais, CH), and grew the team in Basel and Visp ever since. We are now 129 employees (crazy!) across both of our locations.

What has been some highlights in your career? 

There are a few memorable moments. 

Firstly, serving Patients: my Dad passed away due to lung cancer, and I was actively involved in developing an antibody treatment related to lung cancer. I was so proud in being very actively involved in developing and commercializing this product, bringing important medicines to Patients.

Secondly, serving People: creating jobs in Switzerland (despite any economic pressures), helping to create sustainable and fun jobs – we operate ten23 health based on holacratic principles, embrace self-responsibility and physical and mental health are for example key components for us.

Thirdly, serving the Planet: our first partnership with ten23 health – before we even signed any customer contracts – was made with “SevenCleanSeas”, an organization pulling plastic out of the environment. We meanwhile implement measuring, reduction and offset, registered ourselves as B-corp (pending) and have filed our (voluntary) Fairstainability report and operated net positive in our first year of existence. See 220405_Fairstainability-Report.pdf (ten23.health)

What drives you? 

As you can probably read from my answer to the prior question, my personal purpose related to making a difference for Patients and to positively impact people’s lives. I believe that individuals and companies must take extra efforts in acting more sustainability going forward, hoping to be multipliers and making an impact.

How can one be a multiplier?

Well, you can never be sure. But in essence, I would want to kind of “lead by example” with what we do, trying to go beyond what is “normally done”. And we are happy to share quite openly on how we do it. As an example, I was invited to large pharma corporations as inspirational speaker, to stimulate and support their transition to more modern work / newwork. Or sharing on what we do from a sustainability perspective, which is much more than monitoring and offsetting CO2e, rather than being whole and holistic in these approaches.

What does sustainability mean to you?  

Sustainability for me has various elements: For example, planet focus. We need to act in alignment to what Earth has to offer and act in balance. I love the doughnut economy visual model (great book!) related to that, too. In addition, people focus: work needs to be sustainable and be in close alignment and consideration of the individual situations of anyone. Hence, I believe in trust and flexibility as the basis of a company and employee/employer relationship. A business must act sustainably and focus long-term and consider the triple bottom line.

What are some of your favourite books? 

There are many. As a mix from my “all-time favorites” and “recent reads”, I would suggest “Laloux – Reinventing organisations”, “Neumann/Hughes – the Loop Approach”, “Minaar/deMoree – Corporate Rebels”, “Heilemann – Climate Action guide” and as dystopic novels “Penn – Ready Player One” (I did not like the movie!) and “Robinson – Ministry of the Future”. 

What is your view on failure? 

Failure provides an opportunity to learn. I believe in growth mindset, learning organisations (and individuals). Of course, it is important to assess decisions on failure risks and implications: for example, what are implications for Patients, People, Planet, for all our Stakeholders? Are decisions reversible or irreversible and is it safe enough to try? There may be failures that have serious adverse impact for humankind and these must be avoided of course.

Who or what has shaped who you are? 

This is a tough question. I think I am who I am, based on how I was raised. My parents, family, and friends shaped me. Situations I experienced did shape me.

Your job title on Linkedin says CEO – Chief Enablement Officer instead of the classic Chief Executive Officer. Why is this important to you? 

I believe in role-based work, hence we are also based on holacratic principles. I believe in servant leadership (although I think the term has been too extensively used), hence enabling others is and should be a key trait of someone overseeing a company.

Tell us more about it is important for you to follow the holacratic principles?

I don’t believe in command & control organisations, leading by sole financial incentifications. I don’t believe in title and salary being the ambition. I don’t like silo thinking, I don’t like traditional “performance ratings” and manager-driven “development plans”. 

I believe in purpose and inherent motivation, aiming to making an impact with what we do at work, growth and learning mindset, working based on your strengths, in fulfilling multiple roles. A holacratic organization would in my view be most suitable in approaches these ambitions.

Can you share some lessons learned? 

Another tough question. 😊

A few thoughts:

Growth and learning mindset: we never stop learning as humans. I want to be open to learn and grow and never stop learning. Learning includes self-developing and growing as a human.

Think stakeholders: who are your and your company stakeholders. Who do you impact and how? This includes non-human stakeholders (planet! Biodiversity! etc)

Be authentic: I believe that workplaces (and life) should see your “real self”. I aim to embrace openness and transparency, and authenticity.

Anything else to share with our readers out there?

What is your personal purpose? Go make an impact!

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