Susanne Heinzinger, Executive Director of Product Strategy and Alliance Management, Achillion Pharmaceuticals.
To say that Susanne Heinzinger’s career trajectory has taken her from one spectrum of the healthcare arena to another may be an understatement. Before entering the pharmaceutical industry as a sales person, Heinzinger, who earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting, worked as an auditor; she picked the job of auditing hospitals and home healthcare companies, mainly because she had always had an interest in the healthcare industry.
“But after I was exposed to the sales representatives coming in and seeing how they interacted with the providers and the value that they provided the doctors and how the doctors really listened to what they had to say, I thought maybe I should have a career change,” says Heinzinger.
A reference from a friend in the industry helped Heinzinger land a job as a pharma sales rep, and the career transition was underway; and not just any transition, but a launching point to the influential and all-encompassing roles that she now seemed destined for.
Through the years, Heinzinger has led marketing strategies at a big pharma subsidiary and, more recently, with two specialty biotech companies, including directing the successful marketing launch of the C1 esterase inhibitor, Cinryze, approved in 2008 for hereditary angioedema (HAE), a rare blood disorder. Today, Heinzinger is executive director of product strategy and alliance management at Achillion Pharmaceuticals, where she leads the company’s global product positioning and launch efforts for its hepatitis C virus pipeline built around developing commercially competitive regimens that address many patient types while offering high cure rates and favorable safety profiles. A career focus on rare disease and new ways to fight infections with still-significant unmet medical need is indeed a long way from the days of audit trails and financial cross-checks.
“It’s funny, because a lot of people thought I was crazy at the time,” says Heinzinger. “People that I knew in accounting kind of questioned, ‘What are you doing? Are you sure you’re making the right move?’ I have to say it’s one of the best career choices I’ve made, getting into the pharmaceutical industry.” A choice, according to Heinzinger, that has deliberately attracted her to smaller, startup companies in the life sciences space. Such motivation, she says, stemmed from a desire to view and contribute from the inside to many different facets of the biopharmaceutical business. And that versatility, combined with the perspective of working at R&D companies, where risk and failure are natural occurrences, has proven invaluable in not just helping Heinzinger cement a diverse industry background, but preparing her for the changing healthcare environment.
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