Among the second type: Agnes Varis, owner and chief executive of a generic drug company but also a political activist, arts patron and mentor.
In one example of both her scientific and political prowess, Varis helped pass a bipartisan federal law recently that intends to stop big drug companies from endlessly extending their patent protections. In an earlier example, she helped establish the generics industry in Israel.
Varis launched her company 35 years ago to import bulk generic pharmaceuticals for use by American drug firms. Before that, she worked at a pharmaceutical chemical manufacturer, rising from bench chemist to executive vice president, general manager and member of the board.
At age 75, she’s still building her business, recently launching her second international joint venture.
So, how does a leader integrate two or more passions?
For Varis, it’s easy because she rolled them into one: Her mission is to deliver low-cost medicines to the masses. She pushes both the drug industry and the government to champion research, limit patent protection and promote generic drugs, which she calls “affordable miracles.”
—Adapted from “C&EN Talks With Agnes Varis,” Rick Mullin, Chemical & Engineering News.