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Lee Ann Kimak: Committed to Saving Lives through Exemplary Leadership

Lee Ann Kimak, US Commercial Lead at Bavarian Nordic
Lee Ann Kimak

As the business world continues to evolve and disrupt, so does the need for efficient and impactful leadership. As evident as it could be, leadership is crucial to a company’s ascension towards the zeniths of success.

Leadership is an integral part of running any successful organisation – large or small. The type of leadership needed may differ depending on what industry you’re in. Still, the qualities of a good leader remain similar regardless—having strong interpersonal skills, being decisive yet open-minded, knowing when to delegate responsibility appropriately, and leading through example.

We at Insights Care are on a ceaseless endeavour to seek such impactful leaders. In this edition—10 Most Admirable Women Leaders in Biotech for 2021we came across some of the most accomplished women who’ve left no stones unturned when it comes to inspiring the world through their journey towards excellence.

One prominent name among such leaders is Lee Ann Kimak, the US Commercial Lead at Bavarian Nordic.

Lee Ann joined Bavarian Nordic in January 2020 as the US Commercial Lead following the acquisition of two marketed vaccines from GSK. The ability to leverage her previous experience in vaccines and the integration of vaccines into a company made this an interesting opportunity for her.

“Having the opportunity to build a US organisation from the beginning—building a team, establishing the processes and infrastructure needed to be successful—was an exciting challenge for me. The company leadership and culture are inclusive, collaborative, and agile, which makes it an enriching working environment,” says Lee Ann.

Setting Benchmarks

Bavarian Nordic is a fully integrated vaccines company focused on developing, manufacturing, and commercialising life-saving vaccines. The company’s fundamental mission is to save and improve lives by unlocking the immune system’s power.

“We have established a bold vision and aspiration to become one of the largest pure-play vaccine companies by 2025,” says Lee Ann.

Bavarian Nordic has a strong heritage in vaccine research and development and proven successful technology. Innovation remains a cornerstone in developing a strong product pipeline to help fight existing and emerging diseases around the globe.

Overcoming Adversities

We asked Lee Ann about the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic imposed on the global biotech industry and Bavarian Nordic and how she and her team pivoted to surpass those challenges. Her response: The pandemic has spurred global leadership to look to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies for solutions to the pandemic, including diagnostics, assays, therapeutics, and vaccines. Our industry is uniquely suited for this task as we have invested in scientific acumen and the regulatory, clinical, and manufacturing capabilities to deliver these needed solutions.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic did, unfortunately, impact many parts of our business. However, a highlight earlier this year is that Bavarian Nordic reported encouraging preclinical data for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate ahead of first-in-human trials.”

“The pandemic also caused business challenges to collaboration, hiring and of course travel and interactions with customers. Bavarian Nordic took complete care to assure that appropriate precautionary measures are in place and consistent communication and check-ins with our team members occur.”

“Our top priority is the safety and wellbeing of our team members, customers, and communities we serve. We immediately moved to remote working, and like many companies, became accomplished at leveraging team platforms to collaborate, hire talent, and interact with customers. Several working groups across the globe were formed to evaluate areas of business, including the outlook for our future workplaces and more flexible ways of working,” Lee Ann added.

Opinions that Matter

We asked Lee Ann for her opinion on the necessity for biotech companies to align their offerings with newer technological developments, which she answered saying, “As I mentioned before, Bavarian Nordic has a strong heritage in vaccine research and development, and with a proven technology, innovation remains a cornerstone in the development of a strong product pipeline to help fight existing and emerging diseases around the globe.”

“We are experts in live virus vaccine manufacturing, and with the recent addition of fill and finish capabilities, we have enabled end-to-end commercial-scale manufacturing. Lowering the risk of infectious disease for the greater good of our global community is our main mission,” she expressed.

Sharing her opinion on the probable future of the biotech sector post the pandemic, Lee Ann says, “Our industry is fuelled on a constant stream of discovery which requires talented and creative research teams as well as the functions needed to bring new products to market. Our organisation is learning how to identify the most creative and talented teams to focus on bringing innovative products to market, like an RSV vaccine and COVID booster. When you give a great team the job of working on these life-saving products and the tools to do it, they can change the world! You’re doing something useful for society, which is an incredible thing.”

A Necessary Change

When asked, what would be things she would change about the global biotech industry, Lee Ann expressed, “The pandemic spurred intense government, media, and public attention on biotech. Maintaining a high level of innovation and development is critical to the success of our industry, but we also need to have highly skilled talent in other areas beyond discovery and development.”

“We need to focus on building and retaining good talent, managing complexity, and improving commercial and development execution. Bringing good products and vaccines to approval is only part of the process. We need to make sure that we are doing the market development and otherwise providing the commercial support to assure that valuable products are accessible to the patients who can benefit from them.”

Bequeathing the Keys to Excellence

As an excerpt from her professional journey, Lee Ann shares valuable advice to those aspiring to venture into the Biotechnology space, saying, “Don’t give up easily is one piece of advice. Working in small or start-up biotech’s can be challenging, and there is a new problem to be solved every day. Resilience needs to be developed as well as a willingness to operate with a high level of ambiguity and not a lot of processes.”

Voyaging towards New Horizons

Talking about her vision for scaling Bavarian Nordic’s operations and competency, Lee Ann says, “Currently, Bavarian Nordic’s RabAvert is the market leader in rabies vaccination, and we look forward to adding additional market-leading products to our portfolio in the coming years. We have multiple product candidates for infectious diseases and cancer, including candidates for COVID and RSV, which are large scale programs.”

“Good business is about hiring good people; without them, it is hard to grow and sustain momentum over time. My goal is to build on our existing team by adding more outstanding talent that can make sure we effectively deliver these products to the market for the patients who need them,” Lee Ann concludes.



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