Pictured: Nicola Massey, Senior Country Manager, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Nicola Massey is the new Senior Country Manager for Vertex Pharmaceuticals with responsibility for Ireland, as well as the UK. Vertex is a global biotechnology company that invests in scientific innovation to create transformative medicines for people with serious diseases. The company has multiple approved medicines that treat cystic fibrosis (CF), a rare, life-threatening genetic disease, and has several ongoing clinical and research programs in CF. Beyond CF, Vertex has a robust pipeline of investigational small molecule medicines in other serious diseases where it has deep insight into causal human biology, including pain, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and APOL1-mediated kidney disease. In addition, Vertex has a rapidly expanding pipeline of genetic and cell therapies for diseases such as sickle cell disease, beta thalassemia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and type 1 diabetes mellitus. Vertex has been building its footprint in Ireland since 2017. Nicola is an internationally experienced leader in Life Sciences and has extensive experience leading global, European and country teams across multiple therapeutic areas, with expertise in rare diseases.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a lab assistant in the crop protection industry, heat storing and measuring the flow rate of thousands of bottle nozzles. I had a little windowless cubbyhole in the corner of a warehouse. But I knew I played an important role in supporting agriculture in developing countries and it gave me a foot in the door to a role in the main lab.
What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?
When I was first appointed as a Country Manager. I was proud that the company believed in me to offer me that position, but it also suddenly hit home that the country team trusted me and were looking to me to lead them to success. That responsibility has always remained and is a huge motivation for me.
In three words or less, how do you define success?
A thriving team.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
When you look at whether you want to join a company, look closely at its culture and the values and ethics that are at the heart of the company. Then see how much it resonates with your own. This is one of the reasons why I’m proud to be part of Vertex. It fosters a company culture that embraces diversity and authenticity and all employees play a role in helping to achieve our mission of pioneering transformative medicines. Giving back is also part of our DNA and we have a strong corporate social responsibility programme including The Vertex Foundation – a long-term source of charitable giving which I’m pleased has supported Barretstown and Ronald McDonald House Charities in Ireland.
How do you motivate yourself and your staff?
At Vertex, scientific innovation is at the core of everything we do; understanding the science to transform or cure serious diseases and our ultimate purpose is the patients we support. We are very fortunate to come to work each day knowing that we make a positive difference to people living with serious diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
For many, this is enough inspiration to do our best each day. As a leader at Vertex, my role is to create a vision for the team and nurture our inclusive environment where they can be their authentic self, achieving their best work.
How do you relax?
Finding and trying new recipes and inspiration for family meals. The restaurant boxes during lockdown have been a great way to develop new culinary skills plus an excellent chance to support local businesses through a tough period.
What’s your motto?
Get the facts. It’s served me well both personally and with my teams in everyday business as well as times of crisis. Enabling yourself and others space to establish the situation and understand the context always leads to better outcomes.
What are your aspirations for the future of the business?
I want to ensure that we continue to put the patients we support at the centre of our business and that our medicines and treatments get to those who need them.
It’s an exciting time for Vertex in Ireland. We are continuing to introduce our latest approved medicine for CF. The medicine is accessible to eligible patients in Ireland under a long-term access agreement with the HSE. This is hugely important as Ireland is thought to have the highest prevalence of CF in the world – estimated to be around four times the average for Europe – with around 1300 people living with the disease.
I also feel passionate about ensuring that we continue to attract the brightest and best talent, at the same time as developing and supporting the personal career aspirations of the existing team. We’re a small, agile and rapidly growing biotech company and there will continue to be new and exciting opportunities as we move into different therapy areas.