BeiGene appoints first ANZ boss

By Megan Brodie 3 years ago | In Companies, People
  • 3 years ago
Adrian Dunstan

20 October 2021

After five years in Dubai running pharma markets in the Middle East and North Africa, Adrian Dunstan returned home to Australia earlier this year hoping to find a job that would give him a sense of purpose; a role where he could “do some good”.

Speaking exclusively with MedNews as he started as the inaugural General Manager, Australia and New Zealand for BeiGene this week, Dunstan says he is thrilled to have found what is, for him, the perfect job.

“If you asked me eight weeks ago to write my own job description, I would write this – the role, the company – I would write this,” he says. “I couldn’t be happier with how this has turned out.

“It is so exciting to come into a company that is just starting off, to get in on the ground floor and help to build it from the ground up. Sure, it’s daunting but so often we do our best learning when we are outside our comfort zone.”

Reporting to recently appointed APAC Vice President Adam Roach, Dunstan was attracted by the prospects of a company looking to do things differently – something he felt was evident from the get-go when the first five points in the LinkedIn job advertisement were about effective leadership.

It was one of Dunstan’s first questions when he met Roach, who wrote the post, and demonstrated to him he had found someone who truly valued effective leadership coupled with strong financial acumen, a willingness to challenge the status quo, and the ability to build a high-performance team.

“Meeting Adam for the first time was really refreshing,” he says. “I also met [BeiGene President and Chief Operating Officer] Dr Xiaobin Wu, and he said ‘You don’t have to do things the way they have been done. If you think there’s a better way, a new way, try it. If we make mistakes, that’s fine, but let’s try new things.’

“For someone who has been in big pharma for my whole career, it was just so refreshing.”

As the inaugural ANZ country head, Dunstan will be responsible for building out the commercial team including market access, sales, marketing, commercial excellence and business development. He will work with Senior Medical Affairs Director Arthur Alston, who joined BeiGene last year himself bringing strong experience from Janssen, Shire and Merck, to get the company’s first product to patients who need it.

BRUKINSA (zanubrutinib) is already in post-PBAC processes for mantle cell lymphoma while a PBAC resubmission in Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia is required, meaning a lot of leg work for the relatively fresh leadership team to do themselves.

“My prediction is that in a year’s time, BeiGene will be at the top of the list of places people want to work in ANZ,” says Dunstan. “The next year or two is going to be a blur, which is exciting as there is so much to do in terms of building corporate identity and reputation.

While living in Dubai, Dunstan travelled extensively to places like Kiev in Russia.

“We want to attract the best talent that we can, so we have to build that identity. We’ve had a strong clinical presence here for six years but most people in Australia don’t know BeiGene. We’ve got a big job to do, putting BeiGene on the map here, but we get to start with a blank page and that’s a unique opportunity.”

From Adelaide to Dubai

Dunstan started his pharma career straight out of university in Adelaide with a sales role at Wyeth. It was then Sanofi Marketing Director James Jones who saw promise in the young twenty-something and brought him to Sydney to work under then marketing manager Josie Downey, who was recently appointed Merck Managing Director.

After a decade with Sanofi, Dunstan moved briefly to Novartis before James Jones once again wooed him over, this time to Takeda where Jones was by then managing director. Dunstan rose to Head of Commercial before moving to Dubai with Takeda in 2016 as General Manager, Gulf Countries and Lebanon.

Takeda’s Shire acquisition in 2019 caused a global shake-up that saw Dunstan and his young family preparing to return to Australia when he was offered a regional GM role by Swiss pharma Acino, opening another door and allowing the family the opportunity to stay another 15 months.

“That five year period was the steepest learning period of my life, not just because of the role but also the INSEAD leadership course I did in France with Takeda that completely challenged the way I think about leadership,” says Dunstan, who described his own leadership style as “transformational”, with a high level of collaboration, transparency and empowerment.

“My default is to trust from the get-go. I don’t expect people to take a year to build trust with me; it’s implicit from the start.”

The pandemic caused another career disruption and, after multiple attempts to get a flight home from Dubai failed, the young family finally arrived back in Australia in May.

Asked about his career to date, Dunstan said one of the key learnings was that who you worked with was as important as what you do – one of the reasons he had followed Jones to Takeda and a key reason for him choosing to join Roach’s team. Topped off by a role that provides a sense of purpose and where he believes he can add value, Dunstan is thrilled at where he has landed.

“It comes back to purpose and adding value rather than just trying to convince people you are adding value. I actually want to do some good,” he says. Given the exciting products in BeiGene’s late-stage pipeline and the calibre of people it is attracting, it looks like Dunstan is in the right place to do just that.

©MedNews 2021

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