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  • Writer's pictureChristina Diane Warner

The Leadership Edge with Lotus Mallbris MD Ph.D, VP of Immunology Development, Eli Lilly and Company

Lotus Mallbris, MD, Ph.D., Vice President, Immunology Development, Eli Lilly and Company

At Lilly, we aspire to show people with autoimmune diseases that there is always more to be done. By challenging the standard of care and making more meaningful solutions possible, we aim to raise the bar, make lives better and reduce the burden of disease for people around the world.

We believe the therapeutic choice should be based on what is in the best interest of the patient. Patient care is both an art and a science, and as our understanding of how to best, target treatment evolves beyond “one size fits all,” we’re moving to the forefront of helping the medical community provide optimal, individualized care for people with autoimmune diseases.

What it takes to identify and develop the next breakthrough in immunology is evolving. Our extensive research and academic partnerships give us the ability to tap into new, exciting biologic targets. We are also experimenting with new tools for drug discovery – using new technologies to come up with better agents to target specific pathways.

Q&A with Lotus Mallbris, MD, PhD

What brought you to this career path?

When I was nine years old, I happened to be with my parents watching a TV documentary. I witnessed a conversation between a surgeon, the child he had just operated on, and the child’s family. The doctor and the mother were crying, and I remember the child saying to the doctor, “Don’t cry. I know that you have done everything you can to save me.” That moment is still so clear to me because it made me realize what I wanted to do with my life – I wanted to become a doctor who gives my all each day working to serve and help people suffering from diseases.

I never wavered from this plan, and I went on to attend medical school. I was so hungry to learn that I once went into surgery at 3 a.m. to treat a gunshot wound – not because I had to – but because I wanted the experience and learnings. I later ended up switching my specialty from surgery to dermatology.

Although I’m no longer treating patients in my day-to-day work, the driving force behind why I got into the medical field remains the same as when I was nine. I want to help patients. My job at Lilly allows me to have an even bigger impact, helping millions of people around the world who are managing very complex dermatological and immunologic diseases.

What is the most interesting story that happened to you?

One of the most interesting changes in my career occurred when I transitioned from academia and practicing medicine to a new role within a pharmaceutical company.

I took the leap and decided to work for a pharmaceutical company because I thought it would give me an opportunity to have a larger impact on patients. I knew I was in the right place when one of my dear professors in dermatology called me to tell me how much value I was bringing to dermatology by using my skills, such as my deep clinical and medical expertise on immunological diseases, to work within a pharmaceutical company. He told me that we need more people with medical degrees who can bring the “outside-in” and the “inside-out.” His words encouraged me and underscored the fact that I’m playing an important role in the fight to bring new treatments to patients.

What are the five things you wish you knew?

  1. Your Career Can Shift: For the first ten years of my career, I was a physician and researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, focusing on immune-mediated disorders. I then joined the pharmaceutical industry to broaden my perspective on global healthcare and try something new. I would never have thought that I’d be where I am today at the beginning of my career, and that’s because my interests and goals have evolved since I first entered the workforce.

  2. Bring Others Along on the Journey: It’s critical to get other people on board with your vision in order to be successful. Take time to communicate your goals with peers, managers, and other stakeholders, but also take the time to listen to their needs. Always know it’s a team effort. I constantly remind myself to bring others along.

  3. Be Flexible: I intended to work in the pharmaceutical industry for a few years and then return to research. But I found that I love how my work allows me to impact the lives of people around the world, so I’m happy and proud that I’m still here.

  4. Never Let Go of Your Beliefs and Values: I learned very quickly in my career that my job is not just a job. I truly feel like I’ve been given a responsibility to serve the global patient community as well as my family and friends. My values are the North Star that guides me daily – both inside and outside of work. Hold on to your values, perform with excellence and have respect for people.

  5. Everything Happens for a Reason: Like all people, I’ve unintentionally made mistakes throughout my career, but looking back, I wouldn’t do anything differently. Each step in my path has been an invaluable learning opportunity that has shaped me professionally and personally.

What do you believe in?

My life philosophy is two-fold: you must put in the work and have a heart for what you do. I got to where I am today by putting in long hours of hard work – I’m a big believer in “paying your dues” and learning from others who paved the way. It wasn’t easy, but my passion for helping others motivated me to put in the effort and excel.

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