Leadership profile: Henry Hadad

The long-time IP supremo at Bristol Myers Squibb reflects on leadership roles both in-house and at the helm of a top industry organisation

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Henry Hadad was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City, as the grandson of Lebanese/Syrian immigrants. Only later in his life did he realise that the seeds of his passion for intellectual property were sown during his youth. “Both my father and my maternal uncle were successful song writers,” he recalls. “Seeing their pride in what they created and the joy of people listening to these songs made me appreciate the value of intellectual property. My father and uncle were not very savvy about copyrights and when I expressed some interest in music myself, they said: ‘No, no, become a lawyer, we need a lawyer in the family!’”

While he is now in the technical area of intellectual property rather than the creative, it all falls under the same umbrella. “I very much enjoy working with inventors in the life sciences; they are humble about their discoveries but have well-deserved pride in how their life’s work has helped patients around the world.”

Hadad has led the IP organisation of Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) since 2011, after building up his sector experience at Schering Plough and Johnson & Johnson. He is based in New Jersey and leads a team of around 80 people, clustered mainly near BMS’s R&D sites in the United States, reporting to general counsel Sandra Leung.

“Sandy understands the importance of intellectual property and is very supportive of our efforts to protect BMS innovations. She also provides me with the opportunity to work directly with our CEO and the rest of BSM’s leadership to advise them on key IP issues. My access to leadership is also facilitated by the trust that I have built during my tenure at BMS and in the profession. Building a trusted network within your company and establishing yourself as a thought leader on a subject enhances your ability to counsel business leaders.”

To motivate the people on his team, Hadad is a big fan of personal empowerment. “I try to give people the opportunity to lead a project from beginning to end, working closely with our clients to advance our pipeline and business. That’s the best way to make people feel that they are valued and that they have skin in the game.” He is firmly against micromanaging and argues persuasively on the need to provide people with platforms to showcase their talents – “otherwise they can feel disempowered and disconnected from the business”.

Over the years, Hadad has learned first-hand the importance of diversity. “You don’t want a monolithic team. As a younger manager, I tended to hire people that were more like me, with similar skills and mindsets. But ultimately that makes for an imperfect team. You want a mix of skill sets and talent to balance out the group.”

Given this deliberately cultivated mix of expertise and background, cooperation is a key consideration and something that Hadad works hard to foster. “One of the main questions I ask myself when I am hiring people is: ‘Will they be able to collaborate well with others?’” This is crucial not only within the team but also among the broader business, particularly given that nearly all IP matters require scientists, business people and lawyers to work together. “I think it is important that people take their job seriously, but don’t take themselves too seriously,” Hadad reflects. “Too much self-importance can hamper collaboration.”

“I tend to think about professional development as a pyramid. The base of the pyramid is the legal and technical experience that we expect our new hires to have. The next layer is business experience. Through interaction with internal stakeholders, we expect members of our team to learn how the company operates, so you not only provide answers to client questions, but you can anticipate the questions they should be asking.”

The next level of the pyramid is communication. “People outside the IP legal profession don’t have time for the complexities of IP law, but they need to know how legal issues can impact their business,” Hadad points out. “So you need to be able to tailor your message appropriately to your audience. If you have all this expertise under your belt, then the pinnacle of the pyramid is leadership. Leadership means the capacity to move people, to affect change in an organisation because you are persuasive, compelling.”

In the eyes of many, IP leadership also includes participating in public debates around the hot IP issues, coming up with solutions and promoting the value of intellectual property in society at large. On this front, Hadad is clearly pulling his weight. He is an active member of multiple IP organisations and a board member of the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), serving as its president in 2018 and 2019.

“It was my role to find as much common ground as possible between the different companies that make up the membership of the IPO,” he recounts. “At one extreme of the spectrum are some tech companies, which may see intellectual property as a net benefit, but as a burden as well. On the other side are the life science companies, whose business fully depends on meaningful IP protection. And then there is the vast group in the middle, sectors such as telecommunications, automotive, consumer goods and diagnostics. I am pleased that during my tenure as president we were able to pass resolutions on many important US-related issues including Section 101, PTAB and venue reform, but there are still many outstanding issues that require the full range of industries to find common ground. I am also very pleased that the IPO has really focused on increasing diversity in the profession through the creation of dedicated committees and affinity groups. Our goal is to elevate the profession and provide many more opportunities for increasing and diversifying the pipeline of next-generation IP leaders.”

When communicating the value of intellectual property to the wider world, Hadad stresses that this message should be simple and practical. “The best arguments are made through real-world examples, where intellectual property is shown to clearly benefit society. We have to speak plain, clear language so that people understand us. And the message should be emotionally resonant; people should not only know but feel that your argument is right.”

It will come as little surprise that Hadad does not back the proposal, supported in principle by the US Biden administration, to waive provisions to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) in the area of covid-19-related patented inventions. “To be clear, I am very supportive of ensuring that people have access to covid vaccines and treatments around the world. I am privileged to work in an industry that has been a significant part of the solution to address the pandemic through cutting-edge vaccine technology and knowledge-sharing among companies, public institutions and academia. In this context, I do not believe that the proposed TRIPs waiver is helpful.”

He points out there are existing mechanisms within the World Trade Organisation to address situations where there is a lack of access to therapies or vaccines that have not been explored. In addition, vaccines and therapies can be extraordinarily challenging to manufacture, and it is not clear that supply or quality will be enhanced by waiving patent protection. “Finally, I am concerned that in the future, companies might not be as willing to volunteer various different technologies that are core to their business if they think these might be appropriated.”

During his career, Hadad has seen various examples of IP-protected innovation disrupt whole industries and he is all too aware that the same fate might befall the life sciences space. “Biopharma companies are partnering more and more with third-party companies that provide software, AI and Big Data tools, in areas as diverse as drug discovery, clinical trial development and review of real-world data. I can imagine a world where companies that do the AI work may become the drivers of life sciences innovation and the companies that make the products may assume the support role. History seems to suggest – look at the car industry – that the advent of disruptive new technologies can change the paradigm in critical industries, be they transportation or healthcare.”

One message

You are convinced that intellectual property is good for business and for society. If you could send each of the following groups – IP professionals; the C-suite and other business leaders; and society at large – one message, what would it be?

“To society at large I would say that intellectual property is the engine that drives innovation, job creation and global competitiveness. Without the incentives provided by intellectual property, we could not get the advances in healthcare and technologies that are improving our lives dramatically. At times, IP protection might seem inconvenient, temporarily limiting access to an innovation. However, we need to remember that it is the existence of that intellectual property that permitted the innovation in the first place and will enable the next generation of innovations. The absence of this would lead to a world where inventions slow down and eventually dry up.

“My message to the C-suite: if you are in an R&D intensive industry, a critical part of your business model depends on intellectual property. Although many business leaders know this conceptually, this does not always translate into the necessary attention to the subject. Sometimes it is the details of how IP laws are being developed or changed that could dramatically impact the business. Corporate leaders should be aware of this, should adequately resource the IP function within their companies and, where appropriate, should advocate for pro-IP reforms.

“To people in the IP bubble I have one clear piece of advice: speak plainly and clearly. No matter how technical and complicated the issue you are trying to address may be, make sure people understand that it is grounded in innovation, economic growth and global competitiveness.”

What subjects did you study as part of your academic education?

Biology and law.

If you could acquire in one day all the knowledge of any degree of your choice in order to become even better at your job and be a better leader, which degree would you choose?

Computer science. Digital tools and AI have become more and more important in drug discovery and development. Combining my background in the life sciences with this emerging area would enhance my appreciation of the innovations that will lead to the next generation of therapeutics.

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