As part of our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Leadership series, we spoke to Corinne Le Goff, until recently Chief Commercial Officer at Moderna, a pioneer in mRNA therapeutics and developer of the second mRNA COVID-19 vaccine to be approved. Corinne brings over 30 years’ experience in pharmaceuticals, having held senior strategic and commercial leadership roles at Amgen, Roche, Merck AG and Sanofi, mostly in the US, but also in France and Switzerland.
Coulter Partners: We know that Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (D, E & I) is important for commercial success. What does it mean for you, and how has it impacted your own personal journey?
Corinne Le Goff: I’ve been in this industry for a very long time and have worked in large pharma and biotech organizations, most recently at Moderna, so I have an overview of how these organizations work. The focus on diversity has become more prominent in the last five years. I’ve seen an evolution in my career, it has now become a topic of discussion at the board and executive level with clear goals.
I’m a woman executive, so I’m the figure of gender diversity. I’ve worked many years on trying to make sure that diversity and inclusion become a reality. I’ve seen first-hand that there’s nothing you can do that will unleash more potential, that will fuel more innovation, that will drive more long-term success. It’s a key to a lot of success metrics – companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion have improved employee retention and improved engagement. I’m an Independent Director and I’ve worked on boards for many years. You see that the more diverse executive boards generate improved profitability.
When I started in this industry as a scientist in research, there were not many women around. I was a young researcher, and I was working in a public lab in France. I was the only woman there, and as a young professional, you look around and ask, how can you project yourself into the future? How can you envision success if no one around you looks like you? Very early on I learned that I would have to fight harder to be heard and to have a voice. I think that’s true for all diverse populations.
I do believe that specifically in healthcare, diversity is hugely important. The most critical value of diversity in healthcare is to improve patient outcomes. I believe that by increasing diversity within the healthcare research community, it may benefit diverse groups of patients who are underrepresented in clinical trials.
CP: We know that diverse teams drive innovation. To what extent have D, E & I topics contributed to Moderna’s successes over the last few years?
Corinne: Even though Moderna is a young company, it has a real focus on diversity and is enhancing the recruitment of a diverse population as a moral and scientific imperative. Companies often don’t do this because it takes more time, and it is more complicated to operationalize. It’s always a race to the market so you design your clinical trials to go as fast as you can.
This under-representation of a diverse population in clinical trials is also the result of a distrust and reluctance of the minority patients to participate in clinical trials. I think this distrust is the key reason why large populations don’t want to get vaccinated, for example. In monitoring the vaccination rates around the world, we have seen that there is a certain level of distrust in this new technology that is mRNA. Access to education and to knowledge is not the same everywhere. I think there are various barriers to accessing innovation, but the cultural barrier is important, and the language barrier is key. The lack of diversity in healthcare does compromise the long-term outcomes of populations.
CP: Given your vast experience working at large global Life Science organizations, Amgen, Roche, Sanofi, Moderna etc, what are your observations of good D, E & I practices? What has worked well, and have you seen any stark differences in approach between regions, e.g. the US and say, Europe?
Corinne: To truly provide patient centered care, as health care workers, healthcare professionals, as well as manufacturers, we should look and speak like the patients that we serve. I believe that we have a moral duty to improve the quality of information and the quality of education and of care that we deliver for all patients, regardless of their beliefs, sexual orientation, traditions, religions, and gender identity. We, as professionals, have the responsibility to make sure that we educate all the broader communities and that we take the time and invest in doing that.
I’ve seen it at Amgen, at Roche, also at Moderna – it has to start from the top. You need visible commitment from the CEO and the executive teams to start talking about the importance of diversity, not only in terms of inclusion and acceptance in our own organizations, but also in terms of health disparities. In the wake of the George Floyd murder, we realized that we needed to have these conversations. We had always talked about diversity and inclusion, but this event made us realize that we need to create the space for participation and discussion about social justice, and about racism in general. We need to be humble, because admittedly, we all make mistakes, we all have biases. We need to be trained to recognize what a bias looks like. Successful programs in organizations start by having people, and specifically managers, understand what biases and racism looks like in the workplace. It’s extremely important for people to feel heard, accepted, and that they can work in an environment that is psychologically safe. This empowers people, this creates effective collaboration.
There are absolutely differences between the US and Europe. People with a different cultural upbringing have a different take on diversity. I’ve always been a mentor for young women professionals, and I remember when I was in Switzerland, which was the regional hub for Amgen, I had these young Swiss ladies who would come to me and say, in my household, I’m being chastised by my family because I’m working. Certain parts of the world are more traditional and have defined roles for what men and women should be doing. We are still confronted with these types of paradigms, and, as leaders, we need to be conscious of the cultural differences.
CP: In an earlier interview in the series, Dame Kate Bingham highlighted some interesting touchpoints on diversity and the success of the UK COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Are there areas where you’ve seen that diversity really delivers results or outcomes that you think a non-diverse team would have struggled with?
Corinne: Absolutely, diversity of thinking comes from a diversity of experiences. If I run a global team, I want to make sure that I have global representation on my team, and I have people who have different cultural backgrounds and come from many different regions of the world.
I also like to have people who come from different industries, as the pharma industry is branching out more and more to attract people who have experience in technology and with consumers. That way, we can bring points of views from people who understand the persona of the patient. The future of care is about personalized medicines, but it is not enough to know an individual’s genomic profile, we need to make sure we understand how he or she behaves as a consumer, we need to get a full view of a whole person, so that we can make sure that the solutions we offer are effective. I had a colleague who had worked at Amazon, and he brought a very interesting perspective on how to understand people’s needs. As a simple example, when we design devices now, we do a lot of work in terms of patient centric design, which was never done before in our industry.
All these new activities and new specialties are entering the world of pharma, and it is definitely not one size fits all. It’s all about personalization of health care. That goes from biomarkers to customization of approaches to make sure that “I” understand “you” as a patient.
CP: In the last 5-10 years we have seen large-cap Life Science organizations embed D, E & I in their strategic thinking and corporate messaging. Would you say smaller/ less mature biotechs are thinking just as strategically around diverse leadership?
Corinne: You’re raising such an important point, because I don’t think it’s a matter of size. It is a matter of mindset. It starts with a CEO being forward-thinking and saying, that’s how I want to build my company. Whether you have 2000 people or 10, it’s the same thinking. You can make sure that for every recruitment, you have a diverse slate of candidates. I am on the board of Longboard Pharmaceuticals, which is a clinical stage organization in CNS, and we talk about it on the board. Unless you have this disposition at the onset of the company, I don’t think you can get there.
CP: As the Executive Sponsor of Moderna’s internal LGBTQ+ group, how important is the role of inclusion and equity groups within organizations, and how is the output of such initiatives directly supporting your teams?
Corinne: I’m an openly gay woman, so as a senior executive in a position of power, it is my responsibility to help. When you have executive sponsorship, it helps create a clear line of communication between the employee groups and the organization’s leadership. Where we want to help is making sure that we create an inclusive organization, but we could also help mentor younger employees, we could help them on policy developments, which I think is a big topic. If we can have CEOs publicly endorse our LGBTQ inclusive legislation, that’s very powerful. We look at how to identify opportunities to recruit LGBTQ employees. We make sure that we are visible at key events, pride events for instance, and that we align our philanthropic work strategically to LGBTQ organizations. With these kinds of things, we can create some resonance within the company, so that everything that we do is aligned and congruent.
CP: With the recent NASDAQ Diversity Rule(1), and heavy policy around women on boards, how would you feel as an individual being approached in terms of a diversity mandate?
Corinne: I think it’s great. A number of my female colleagues have said that if it’s a diversity mandate, then they want to make sure they are hired for being competent, and not for being a woman. I tell them that they are competent, because as a woman, you are generally highly qualified when you put your candidacy out for leadership roles. I think that mandates work. Numerical goals work. If we’re not systematic about this, I don’t think we’ll ever get there. If it’s not a clear goal, and if it’s not a numerical goal that will be monitored, I don’t think we’ll get there.
Corinne Le Goff
Dr. Le Goff joined Moderna from Amgen, where she served as SVP and President of the US Business, driving the growth strategy with increased contributions from Repatha® and Aimovig®. During her nearly 6-year tenure at Amgen, she also served as SVP of the Europe Region and oversaw 48 markets. Dr. Le Goff was actively engaged with the policy community and advocates for innovative, high-quality and affordable healthcare. She represented Amgen as a member of the Healthcare Leadership Council.
Prior to joining Amgen, Dr. Le Goff held a number of senior international roles at Roche, including President of Roche France, a major affiliate of the Roche Group, and Global Product Strategy Head of Neuroscience & Rare Diseases. Early in her career, Dr. Le Goff spent 11 years in various leadership roles at Sanofi and Pfizer in the US.
Since February 2021, Dr. Le Goff has been a Director of Longboard Pharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing novel, transformative medicines for neurological diseases. She also served on the Board of Directors of CFAO for 6 years until December 2020. CFAO is a key player in mobility, healthcare, consumer goods, infrastructure, and energy, contributing to growth and industrialization in Africa.
Dr. Le Goff received a Doctorate in Pharmacy from Rene Descartes University in Paris and a Master of Business Administration from La Sorbonne University and INSEAD. She holds a US patent. She has recently been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the women over the age of 50 who are changing the world.
- On August 6, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved the NASDAQ’s proposed listing rule related to Board diversity requiring each Nasdaq-listed company to have, or explain why it does not have, at least two “Diverse” directors, including one who self-identifies as “Female” and one who self-identifies as either an “Underrepresented Minority” or “LGBTQ+.”
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