2019 Northwestern Law MSL Entrepreneurship Trip — Gilead

By Xiaolei Cheng, Shao-Hsuan Kao, and Kat Klein

Day 3 – Wednesday, March 27: Gilead

On the third day of our EnTP trip, we visited Gilead Sciences, one of the largest bio-pharmaceutical companies in the world. Founded in 1987, Gilead’s mission is to advance the care of patients worldwide who suffer from life-threatening diseases. Gilead maintains operations in over 30 countries and employs 8,000 individuals across six continents.

Gilead offers two primary value propositions: innovation and cost reduction. It has embraced innovation throughout its history. The first complete treatment regimen for HIV infection is one of its groundbreaking efforts. Gilead provides discounts to ensure affordable treatment and manages several patient assistance programs to make therapies more accessible for those in need of financial support. We were honored to meet with Brett Pletcher, Gary Tully, Shannon Ryan, and Ja Moon. The meeting was fascinating, enjoyable, and engaging.

Before the meeting, we watched a short video of patients sharing their thoughts about living with life-threatening illnesses. The innovative therapies Gilead has developed brought light and hope back to their lives. It was touching and it gave us a deeper understanding of Gilead’s meaningful mission.

The meeting began with an overview of Gilead given by Shannon. She gave us an introduction of Gilead’s mission and corporate structure. We were all impressed by Gilead’s strong corporate social responsibility. For example, some patients who have certain life-threatening disease may live in developing countries, where it is extremely hard for them to access and afford therapies. To help solve this problem, Gilead licenses its products to those countries at a lower price.

We have learned in many of our MSL classes how highly regulated the pharmaceutical industry is. Owing to this, Gilead has an extremely powerful legal team.

Ja showed us how Gilead uses transparency, policies, and procedures to ensure compliance. Everyone was impressed by how Gilead embraces compliance throughout its business. Ja and her team manage each stage of the process including awareness, monitoring, and updates.

Gary spoke next and shared his past work experiences with us. He taught us the definition of “legal operations”, which is a multi-disciplinary function that aims to optimize the delivery of legal services in an organization. Gary also taught us that the legal operations team is open-minded. People from different backgrounds contribute to the team which is excellent for us to hear as MSL students.

Next, we learned how the legal team is organized and efficiently operates. It was a tremendous surprise and privilege to have Brett Pletcher present to us. He told us that there are several specialized groups in the legal team to deal with corresponding issues. Brett also told how international IP groups operate and collaborate to license Gilead products worldwide.

The MSL team wants to send a big thank you to Brett, Gary, Shannon, and Ja for generously sharing their time and insights during this very well-organized and informative meeting. We are immensely grateful for things we learned from this wonderful afternoon. These insights and this experience will help guide us as we prepare for new and exciting endeavors.

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