Ask the Experts Interview Series

/

Mads Stoustrup


Mads Stoustrup, a Danish and Swiss national, is a seasoned executive with over 20 years of experience in the life sciences industry. He has held several roles at Novo Nordisk, driving significant growth and business transformations.

• General Manager & Vice President, Novo Nordisk Switzerland (2015-2023)
• Director, Sales Diabetes and Biopharm Business Unit (2012-2014)
• Director, Biopharm Business Unit (2009-2012)
• Senior Project Manager, Pricing & Public Affairs Europe (2006-2009):
• Earlier Roles: Mads started his career in Novo Nordisk’s Graduate Programme in 2001, gaining diverse experience in product supply, marketing, and portfolio planning. Thereafter various positions as analyst and project manager.

Currently, Mads is an independent consultant advising biotech, start-up and digital health companies on growth strategies.

Ask the Experts Interview Series

with Mads Stoustrup

If you had to describe yourself with one word, what would you choose?

Resilient.

What is your background? 

I hold an MSc in Economics from the University of Copenhagen, supplemented by executive education courses at Harvard Business School, INSEAD, IMD, and Kellogg Business School. With over 20 years of experience in the life sciences industry, I’ve held various commercial leadership roles. My career has been driven by a passion for business growth, patient care, commercialization, and the intersection of technology, people, and business.

The bulk of your career was at Novo Nordisk. What were some of the proudest moments that you’ve had? 

I had many proud moments. In my last job as General Manager for Novo Nordisk Switzerland, I am very proud of the work we did in obesity and with GLP-1s. 7 years ago, obesity was not recognized as a disease and there was very little interest in this area from all stakeholders. This has clearly changed. It took us 3 years to negotiate reimbursement for the first obesity drug and with a lot of hard work, we have played a significant role in changing the perception of – and the insight into – obesity as a disease. There is still a lot to be done, and I am confident that the next 10 years will be very exciting in this area. We can do so much good for patients and the healthcare system by treating obesity.

In addition, I am also very proud of leading my team to some best-in-class product launches for diabetes, obesity, and rare diseases. Within diabetes, we have significantly increased total market share by nearly 10% and built a strong foundation. These achievements were driven by our commitment to creating value for patients and maintaining good stakeholder relations. Finally, I am very proud of the significant sales and profit growth we have had and at the same time being able to build and change the organization to meet the new opportunities. We did this with high engagement scores, business and people focus, and with a strong attention to having “the house in order.”

How did your time there shape you? 

I joined Novo Nordisk as a graduate fresh out of university, so my time there has profoundly shaped my professional toolbox, my leadership style, experiences, and way of working. The Novo Nordisk graduate program was a great way to get a holistic experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Thereafter my career took me to positions as an analyst, project manager, heading up pricing, market access, and public affairs, various BU leadership positions, and lastly as General Manager.

One of the core values I learned on this journey is the importance of being patient-focused and ambitious. Leading a team to significant growth requires setting high goals, having trust, ensuring empowerment, being agile, and having a strong focus on the key priorities.

In my experience, a high-performing team is diverse in opinions and backgrounds, built on mutual respect and at the same time committed to the same goals and plan of action. Respect and empathy extend to all stakeholders, from employees to patients and partners, ensuring that we maintained good relations, upheld our commitment, and being open, honest, and decent in all areas.

Of the areas you’re an expert in, which topic has the maximum potential for disruption (with things like GenAI)?

I am convinced that AI and GenAI will have a massive impact on society, business, education, healthcare, and people in general.

In research and development, AI can revolutionize drug discovery and development processes by analyzing vast datasets to identify potential compounds, predict their efficacy, and optimize clinical trial designs. In commercial functions, AI can transform how companies engage with customers and execute their marketing strategies. AI-powered tools can make marketing campaigns smarter and faster by leveraging data analytics to target specific audience segments with personalized content. This not only enhances the effectiveness and costs of campaigns but also ensures that messaging resonates more deeply. 

In back-office functions, automating routine tasks such as data entry, compliance monitoring, and financial reporting can free up human resources to focus on more strategic activities, improving overall productivity and accuracy. And finally, I am sure will get super well-working AI chatbots that can provide 24/7 support with more empathy, effectiveness, and quality than humans.

In your opinion, what does the future of an effective organization look like? 

The future of an effective organization lies in embracing digital transformation, fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptability, and maintaining a healthy and engaging working environment.

Great leadership plays a crucial role in shaping an organization. The way I see it, leaders must be visionaries who can anticipate and navigate changes, set ambitious goals, and empower their teams to achieve them. They will need to foster an environment of openness, honesty, and respect, ensuring that every team member feels valued and heard. 

This approach builds trust and camaraderie, which are essential for high performance and collaboration, in my view. Valuing diversity and treating everyone with respect not only enhances team dynamics but also drives creativity and innovation. Diverse teams bring a wider range of perspectives and ideas, which can lead to more innovative solutions and better decision-making.

Moreover, an effective organization is focused, agile, and simple in its operations. Strong purpose, clear plans, streamlined processes, and focus on the team and people is very important and something you must continue to work on. 

What’s your take on leadership? How do you actively cultivate trust, camaraderie, and accountability? 

Leadership is the cornerstone of any successful organization. My take on leadership is that it is about inspiring and empowering others to achieve their best, setting a clear vision, and fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and motivated. Leadership is not just about directing and executing a plan of action; it’s about creating a culture that aligns with the organization’s values and goals.

Trust is the foundation of effective leadership in a high-performing team. I actively cultivate trust by being open, honest, and transparent in my communications. This means sharing both successes and challenges with the team and being consistent in my actions. Camaraderie is essential for a cohesive and motivated team. I foster camaraderie by encouraging collaboration and ensuring team-building activities. Accountability is about setting clear expectations and holding everyone, including yourself, responsible for meeting them. I establish accountability by setting measurable goals and regularly reviewing progress.

Empowering the team is central to my leadership philosophy. This means providing the tools, resources, and opportunities for reaching the goals and for professional growth.

Do you have something to share about your current consulting work (and Interpharma)? 

As an independent consultant, I currently work with different clients focusing on new business opportunities, transformations, and market strategies. In my role at Interpharma, I’ve contributed to strategy development and spearheaded the Task Force for Health Data Ecosystems. This work focused on advancing Switzerland’s digital health landscape, emphasizing the importance of innovation, stakeholder relations, and a commitment to societal benefits.

Who or what has shaped who you are? 

My journey has been profoundly shaped by a combination of my family, upbringing, and my professional experiences.

From an early age, my parents instilled in me the values of trust, hard work, and integrity. Growing up, I was encouraged to pursue my passions and was supported in my endeavors, whether academic or extracurricular. Team sports also played a significant role in my upbringing. Participating in sports taught me the importance of teamwork, discipline, and perseverance.

My professional journey at Novo Nordisk has also been transformative. Working in various roles across multiple countries, I gained a global perspective and deepened my understanding of the pharmaceutical industry, leadership, and commercialization.

Additionally, my bosses, peers, teams, coaches, and mentors have played a big role in shaping my thinking and leadership style.

What is one interesting fact about yourself that few people know of (a hobby, etc.)? 

As a child, I spent a lot of time on the water sailing in various competitions. Unfortunately, for the last 20 years, I have not been on a racing sailboat—too few opportunities in Zurich.

Do you have any final remarks/advice to share? 

We are entering a very exciting era with incredible opportunities, especially within technology and healthcare. It truly feels like a golden age of science, where advancements in technology and research are poised to transform healthcare and overall health outcomes.

My advice is to stay curious, be open, and have empathy. Curiosity drives innovation and keeps you engaged with new developments. Being open to change and new ideas allows you to adapt and thrive in a rapidly evolving landscape. Empathy is crucial, not only for understanding patient needs but also for building strong, collaborative relationships within your team and with stakeholders.

Insights

Related articles

Margrit Schwarz

Who inspired you to get into the life sciences? My interest for life science was nurtured by my father, who was both a chemist and a photographer; he took me along on hikes and then to the lab where I spent hours staring through a microscope, examining the things I had just picked up on the trail. It instilled in me a deep fascination for all things ‘Nature’, from patterns of life that repeat regardless of scale, to endless curiosity for – simply put – why things are the way they are!

Read More

Zoë Johnson

Tell us more about your background and your current role at M:M Bio. I like taking on new challenges and uncertainty does not scare me, these two qualities have led me to make career moves that have taken me from a graduate-level bench scientist in the biotech industry at Celltech – a fantastic training ground that led to my PhD studies, to running research departments in pharma and biotech, joining a clinical team to learn how to position a program for eventual marketing approval, and then a pivot to C-suite positions at start-up companies.

Read More

Christian Rutzer

Tell us more about your work at CIEB.  The CIEB — which stands for Center for International Economics and Business — is a research center within the Faculty of Economics at the University of Basel dedicated to the analysis of the Swiss economy, with a particular focus on structural change, innovation and digital transformation. Our work bridges the gap between basic research and applied analysis.

One of our focuses is the study of innovation in the life sciences, recognizing its significant economic impact on the Basel region and Switzerland as a whole. What distinguishes us from many think tanks and economic consulting groups is our independence due to our affiliation with the university.

Read More

Amir Hefni

Amir, you’ve had an impressive international career across various countries and therapeutic areas. What unique perspectives and insights have you gained from your global experience that you bring to Resolution Therapeutics? I am a big believer in the power of diversity. Having had the pleasure of working across several countries and therapeutic areas, I found the best approach to solving the biggest problems is through the lens of diverse perspectives. It’s not always easy, in fact at times It can feel uncomfortable and frustrating, especially when you are convinced that your approach is the right one. However, if I reflect on some of the toughest challenges I have faced in my career, it is the diversity of perspectives from the team around the table that delivers the best ideas. It makes the impossible possible! 

Read More