Collaborations: Canada's New Natural Advantage
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 27 Apr 2000, p. 370-383
Lievonen, Mark, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Aventis Pastseur as Canada's--and the world's--largest vaccine company. Former names of Aventis. Their merger as a powerful example of collaboration. The collaborative nature of Canadians. The need to embrace the collaboration among business, government and academia as a means to address and solve the problems and issues we face. How we are already doing so successfully. Some information and background to Aventis Pasteur as a clear example of the speaker's belief in Canada's ability to collaborate for success. An example from Canada's past of an heroic Canadian business achievement involving collaboration in the early 1900s. The founding of Connaught Laboratories. International activities of Aventis Pasteur. Some of the speaker's personal requirements for collaboration, which could also apply to leadership in general, with a brief discussion of each. Concluding remarks about collaborative skills and collaboration.
Date of Original
27 Apr 2000
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Full Text

Mark Lievonen President, Aventis Pasteur Limited COLLABORATIONS: CANADA'S NEW NATURAL ADVANTAGE Chairman: Robert J. Dechert President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

George L. Cooke, President and CEO, The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company and Immediate Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; The Reverend Philip Barstow, Rector, St. Philips-on-the-Hill Anglican Church, Unionville; Marco Giovanazzo, OAC Honours Student, Central High School of Commerce; Dr. Michel Julius, Department of Immunology, University of Toronto; Joyce Groot, President, BIOTECanada; Daniel Burns, Deputy Minister, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care; Catherine Steele, Vice-President (Toronto) and Partner, GGA Communications and President-Elect, The Empire Club of Canada; Dr. Colin D'Cunha, Director, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care; and Dr. Alan West, Partner, Gowling Strathy & Henderson.

Introduction by Robert J. Dechert

As President of Aventis Pasteur Limited, Mark Lievonen is responsible for all of the company's operations in Canada and is a member of Aventis Pasteur's global strategic planning committee.

Mr. Lievonen first joined Connaught Laboratories, as it then was, 16 years ago. Since 1990, Mr. Lievonen has held a number of senior management positions and has been responsible for the company's overall commercial operations.

Prior to his appointment as President, Mr. Lievonen was Senior Vice-President and General Manager of the Oncology Business Unit. He was responsible for the strategy and funding of Aventis Pasteur's cancer vaccine programme and the global marketing and sales of cancer immuno-therapeutic products.

Mr. Lievonen holds a Bachelor's and an MBA degree from York University. He is also a chartered accountant.

Mr. Lievonen is the Vice-Chairman of BIOTECanada. He served as a member of the Canadian Liver Foundation's Board of Directors from 1995 to 1998.

Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Mr. Mark Lievonen to the podium of The Empire Club of Canada.

Mark Lievonen

Thank you for your kind introduction President Dechert. Fellow head table guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to be here and to be joined by such distinguished head table guests.

I want to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy lives and your own collaborations to join me here today.

The organisation which I have the privilege to lead, Aventis Pasteur, is Canada's-and the world's-largest vaccine company. Some of you may know us better by our former name, Pasteur Merieux Connaught or perhaps as Connaught Laboratories.

In December our parent company, Rhone Poulenc, merged with another global leader in the life sciences field-Hoechst-to form Aventis, with Aventis Pasteur being the vaccine business unit.

But more importantly, this merger is a powerful example of collaboration; in this case, global collaboration. In fact, if intention and commitment are present, mergers, if managed properly, can open the door for extraordinary collaborations.

I would suggest that our country has the natural ability to harness a resource we seem to share as a people-our collaborative nature. Collaboration among business, government and academia needs to. be embraced-not feared-as a means to address and solve the problems and issues we face, and I would argue, we already do this successfully.

But first, here's some additional information about Aventis Pasteur which provides a clear example for my belief in Canada's ability to collaborate for success.

Aventis Pasteur is the vaccine division of Aventis, a world leader in life sciences. For over 80 years Aventis Pasteur has protected Canadians against preventable disease. That remains our central mandate.

Aventis Pasteur produces more than one billion doses of vaccine every year. The Canadian operation is vitally important to the global company, employing a highly skilled work force of approximately 1,000 people who research, develop and manufacture vaccines and other biological products, not just for Canada, but for markets around the world.

One recent example of our own collaboration's positive impact here in Canada concerns our Canadian operations. I am pleased to announce today that approximately $40 million capital investment for new and retrofitted facilities is being injected into our site here in Toronto. This represents a strong endorsement from our global headquarters for Canadian research and development, Canadian talent and the Canadian operation overall.

I am certain we would not enjoy our leadership position were it not for collaboration.

From my own experiences I've learned that through collaboration the extraordinary can happen. By extraordinary I mean that through collaboration you can generate something unexpected once you tap into the collective wisdom of all the many resources available.

Stellar examples of that collective wisdom are sitting at this head table. I can safely vouch for that because my company enjoys several productive collaborations with organisations represented by several of the distinguished head table guests. They represent partners in technology, in research, in business and perhaps most importantly collaboration with our customers.

For example, we are finding that through an ambitious, global collaboration we can manifest a Canadian-inspired dream of creating a whole new approach to treating cancer: cancer therapeutic vaccines. It's an approach that could dramatically change the lives of cancer patients and their families around the world.

Moreover, in the life sciences industries collaboration is an imperative for success, because it is next to impossible for any one company to develop all the necessary technologies for leading-edge solutions to problems.

We are not unique: outside our industry one only needs to refer to the software and high-tech industries to witness similar patterns where strategic alliances and global mergers are a daily occurrence.

It seems that despite the "techno-turmoil" in the markets these days, many investors make purchase decisions based on strategic alliance announcements, knowing that the power of such alliances unleashes opportunities such as new markets, new sources of revenue and new technological breakthroughs.

Simply put, no one has all the answers; and one of the obligations of leadership is to identify partners with whom to collaborate to piece together a complete solution.

Indeed, at the risk of being self-serving, the early versions of our company were well ahead of their time in forging powerful collaborations. Our company's history dates back 85 years-to the beginning of vaccine production in Canada.

Let me explain by an example from our past. It's actually a little known, but heroic Canadian business achievement involving collaboration in the early 1900s.

An idealistic and visionary young doctor built a tiny stable just north of here, near the University of Toronto, and began to inoculate four horses with diphtheria bacteria, which was his first step in preparing the lifesaving antitoxin.

A tragedy ignited this pioneering spirit: the young doctor was out on calls visiting patients. Medicine was extremely expensive; patients were mostly poor. In one instance, a family had to choose which one of their two children would receive medicine they both needed; there was only enough money for one child to receive the medicine. The other child died.

Dr. John Fitzgerald, a Canadian, became committed to making life-saving medicines available to all, regardless of economics and geography-a vision shared by Dr. Louis Pasteur, under whom he studied.

Since knowledge is as vital as medicine in the fight against disease, Fitzgerald travelled the world to study how others responded to these life threats. He came home to Toronto and founded Connaught Laboratories.

Connaught was part of the University of Toronto for 60 years. The labs trained and spawned generations of world-renowned, Canadian researchers and doctors who contributed to ridding the world of the deadliest diseases, including the very accomplished Drs. Banting and Best. It continues to do so to this day.

This humble initiative which began in a barn was one of the essential building blocks for my company, and it eventually ignited a whole series of initiatives and collaborations involving the Governments of Canada and Ontario, the University of Toronto, the World Health Organization, the renowned Pasteur Institute in Paris and Brussels and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Today these powerful collaborations continue to thrive in many ways such as our recently announced $3-million Aventis Pasteur Chair in Human Immunology at the University of Toronto and our ambitious, Canadian-led global initiative to find and produce therapeutic vaccines for certain types of cancers. In this programme, our strategic partners include the Government of Canada and the' Province of Ontario, that are directly contributing to Canadian research and development, allowing Canadian talent to stay here and practice what they love to do in the country they love to live in.

On the international scene our Canadian organisation plays a significant role in the many global partnerships our company is involved with. Through our International Public Health Affairs staff, under the direction of Dr. Luis, Barreto, we have a mandate to collaborate directly with a large number of major international public health and financial organisations. These include the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, or GAVI as it is called-an alliance of business leaders, philanthropic foundations and international agencies committed to energising the world's commitment to vaccines and immunisation for children. Recently, GAVI announced the Children's Challenge, an initiative funded in part by a $750-million donation from the Gates Foundation to save children's lives around the world. We are proud to partner with such organisations.

We are also proud to have recently announced our donation of some 50 million doses of oral polio vaccine to assist in the global eradication of this dreadful disease. Aventis Pasteur's donation is specifically earmarked to five countries in conflict in Africa-countries that remain reservoirs for the spread of polio.

For the next few minutes I will share a list of some of my personal requirements for collaboration. They could also apply to leadership in general. Here is my list-which is by no means exhaustive nor complete-of collective and individual requirements for collaboration.

1. Clearly establish a vision.

Vision is an absolute imperative. To paraphrase an old Chinese proverb, unless you declare the future you want, you will end up somewhere else.

So when I speak of vision I mean a concrete result at a point of time in the future. The result is measured qualitatively and quantitatively. Ideally a vision is also conceived without limits; present-day realities only impair people's vision of the future. Limiting assumptions need to be set aside.

When I was asked to lead our global cancer vaccine initiative, we started with a vision to develop and commercialise a series of therapeutic cancer vaccines. That vision grew when we collaborated with a sister company, at that time called Rhone Poulenc Rorer, to become a combination of our immunotherapeutic approach with their chemotherapeutic approaches in a complementary manner in the treatment of cancer.

Nobody in the world has done that yet. None of the established cancer companies have such a partnership. And the potential benefits to all are huge: new approaches to the treatment of cancer will at the very minimum improve the quality of life for patients and families; innovation attracts, retains and ignites employees; financially the potential is in the billions.

And because the cancer vaccine initiative is a Canadian-led, global one, we are able to invest in Canadian research and development and help stem the flow of outstanding, highly skilled talent to the U.S.

So massive, so ambitious is this dream that it would be impossible for one company-even with our additional strength through the new Aventis merger-to embark on this journey without the support of many others.

I think the lesson here is clear: the bigger the vision, the more you need to collaborate.

The bigger the vision, the more you need to collaborate and regardless of size, you'll always need a rigorous plan, which leads me to my second requirement for collaboration.

2. Clearly establish and commit to a plan that's rigorous, meticulous and grounded in a way that will be understood by a 12 year-old.

A little while ago, I read that "successful collaborations are dreams with deadlines."

It was in a recent Fortune magazine article entitled "Why CEOs Fail." I figured that I'd better read it just in case there was something I was missing! Anyway, the magazine conducted research on several high-profile executives who they claimed failed for a similar reason.

What the research uncovered was that while many leaders created a powerful vision, their follow-throughthe execution-was weak. There was little or no plan to manifest the vision. And when a plan existed, the article informed, it was often vague and unaccountable.

In some meetings at our company we've had people come and share their perspectives on various issues and problems. People tended to "throw" the issues on the table and we would start to "chew" on them. We would then criticise ourselves when we couldn't make a decision out of this morass of information.

So now we've employed a "Fact-based decision-making process." Perspectives are laid out in advance on paper, identifying the issues, background, alternatives and recommendations for going forward.

This may seem simple, but it's amazing the clarity that results when people document the issues in advance, and then have something concrete to refer to. This aids understanding, speeds decision making and minimises conflict. Agreement on the underlying facts and assumptions up front becomes the critical component. You quickly learn that collaborative skills are vital for success.

By the way, the reference to a 12-year-old is not to diminish children nor the intelligence of adults: it is a guide to consider when you are speaking to multiple people, cultures, languages and skill sets.

3. Identify and recruit the right people and partners. The biggest obstacle in creating successful partnerships is not recognising opportunities when they present themselves. Or as Paul Hoffert, the internationally renowned expert on information technology, and onetime member of the rock band Lighthouse, puts it: "The true sign of creativity is the ability to see relationships where none exist."

We must be pro-active in our search for collaborators. They won't necessarily come to our doorsteps. We must reach out and search for people and organisations with complementary skills, roles or objectives.

As I stated at the outset of my speech, collaboration among business, government and academia needs to be embraced-not feared--as a means to address and solve problems and to compete on an international basis. We've proven here at our Canadian site that such an approach works in research and development to the benefit of Canadians and indeed all of humanity.

In the early 90s through the Ontario Technology Fund, we participated alongside the Province of Ontario, the University of Toronto and McMaster University to find vaccines for some very serious infant respiratory diseases, as well as a project on HIV

Suffice it to say this collaboration has been extremely successful. Although it continues to be a work in progress, I'm happy to report that candidate vaccines have been developed and are at various stages of clinical trial. Aventis Pasteur is now among only a few companies in the world with a candidate vaccine for HIV--a direct result of this collaboration.

Our company's current and past partners include universities across Canada through our Canadian University

Research Program, the National Research Council, the various centres and networks of excellence and the Medical Research Council (now called the Canadian Institute of Health Research). All of these are concrete examples of the infrastructure of people and projects across Canada which have sustained our organisation over the past decade. They have allowed us to compete and maintain a competitive global manufacturing site in Canada with a fully integrated R and D infrastructure to support it and partner with organisations across Canada.

4. Commit to nurturing relationships.

There are many aspects to this. Let me offer just a few. I remember thinking about what makes people "high performers" on a team. As unscientific as this might sound, they have an "it." This "it" distinguishes them from others. The lights went on when I found out about something called Emotional Intelligence, which I am sure many of you know about.

Very simply put Emotional Intelligence measures character and behavioural or relationship-building attributes, whereas the traditional "IQ" measures Intelligence. Some people have "it," others don't. I believe that's what distinguishes strong performers from others. Sometimes, then, nurturing relationships means building your own or others' collaborative skill sets, such as listening, and dialogue. In our organisation, our employees have very high IQs-higher than that at many organisations given the nature of the work we do. Yet we have our own struggles in getting things done. We are working to bolster the "EQ" level. It is the real key to distinguish those who can or can't perform collaboratively and as team members to get things done.

Another belief I have is about the importance of building collaborative relationships with colleagues both inside and outside a business context.

In my own experience I have several examples where building trust and establishing long-term relationships on a personal level have proven invaluable when issues of potential disagreement arose later on.

And finally the 5th requirement of collaboration: WinWin.

An unwavering commitment to "win-win" is the foundation for all relationships.

The term win-win is often used, poorly understood and rarely executed well. Sometimes people think win-win means "you can win as long as I win more."

Well, our cancer vaccine programme would not have been able to take off without this commitment driving all our relationships. We have constructed a massive collaboration, bringing together some of the brightest minds in Canada, the United States and Europe. Intimately involved in the collaboration is the Government of Canada through an inspired programme called Technology Partnerships Canada (TPC), as well as the Province of Ontario.

A cornerstone of global collaboration is the Aventis Pasteur Cancer Vaccine Network. After the initiative was announced, a colleague of mine, Dr. Mary Ewasyshyn, criss-crossed Canada to set up alliances with researchers from universities and other institutions. Our approach was a little different from the norm: instead of dictating what we wanted from these institutions, we presented our programme's vision, goals and ideas. We then asked them how they thought they could contribute, how our project could assist them in forwarding their own goals, and then asked each to submit a proposal.

Dr. Ewasyshyn and her team visited over 30 institutions across Canada; most submitted proposals. Today, we have successful collaborations with several outstanding researchers from prestigious institutions across the country, including the National Research Council, Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, Mount Sinai Hospital, Dalhousie University, and the University of Manitoba.

The result is new research and clinical jobs as well as increased manufacturing capacity. As well, this homegrown research helps stem the so-called "brain-drain" and significantly bolsters Canada's scientific knowledge. Aventis Pasteur wins, the government wins and the institutions with their highly skilled researchers win. But the ultimate "win" of this Canadian-led, global collaboration is the potential for saving people's lives and improving the quality of their lives.

Indeed some of the most satisfactory partnerships that a company such as ours can have is with non-profit and non-governmental organisations. Organisations such as the March of Dimes, The Canadian Pediatric Society, Canadians for Health Research, The Canadian Public Health Association and the international medical charity, MAP International, are just a few of the many partners we are proud to work with to multiply our individual ability to "do some good" in the world.

To conclude, collaborative skills are the new imperatives of a leader's tool kit. Collaborative skills are relationship-based and when employed correctly will generate profound results-quantitatively and qualitatively.

And I'm convinced that without collaboration, possibility shrinks, innovation is extinguished and energy drains. But with collaboration the extraordinary is available, like creating a promising approach to treating one of the greatest scourges of the world through vaccine therapy.

It is important to teach collaborative skills early, too. Earlier I cited a collaboration in the early 90s involving the Ontario Technology Fund, the U of T, McMaster and our company which involved various research and development initiatives that are today bearing fruit; most noticeably part of the research which has led to a candidate vaccine for respiratory diseases.

Something else was created as a result of that collaboration. Indirectly it's a legacy of this collaboration. The Technology Fund organisers wanted to help the public understand science. The result of our company's efforts then to improve education and awareness of science has led to an exciting programme today.

Together we created the Aventis Biotechnology Challenge, a programme to help Canada's youth explore the endless possibilities of research and development in Canada. Collaboration, dialogue, mentoring and alliance building are all invaluable character and skill assets students gain through this learning experience.

It's designed to introduce students from across the country to the joy of biotechnology and research, where participants work with mentors for coaching and to experience the "real world" of scientific research and development, applying it to their projects.

Now over 100 organisations participate in this learning incubator, which we've had the privilege of leading for six years. Last year this programme was awarded the Michael Smith Award for Science Promotion, named after one of Canada's Nobel Prize Winners.

Through collaboration among business, government, academia and others I believe the country can address many daunting, chronic issues, among them the so-called "brain-drain" as well as bolstering productivity and redeveloping a system of public health and wellness care second to none. And that is only the start.

However, the temptations to follow other paths which undermine collaboration-expediency, prejudice, self interest, control, no listening, win-lose and scores of others-are seductive, powerful and ever present.

I'd offer that it is our commitment to the practice of collaboration that will determine your success in competing globally. This is as true for our company as it is for our country.

The good news is that Canada's collaborative resources are as abundant and natural as water, wood and hockey pucks.

Before I conclude I know many of you will be interested in our progress concerning the collaboration for our cancer vaccine initiative: I can report that results to date confirm that our original vision is viable; moreover, early clinical trials using cancer vaccine technology are promising. I hope that in the not-too-distant future I will be able to report to you that our vision has been realised.

Just two weeks ago, at the Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, patients started receiving a Canadian test vaccine against melanoma. This is a major milestone, a tribute to Canadian research and development and a powerful example of Canadian collaboration and a contribution to humanity.

However, as I have said in interviews before, we can cure all the mice in the world of human cancers that they will never get; it is quite another thing to treat humans of these same cancers. I believe it will just take more outstanding collaboration.

Thank you for allowing me to share my own experiences about collaboration. And I thank the many people at the head table and in the audience who have contributed immeasurably to these stories. Thank you.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Catherine Steele, Vice-President (Toronto) and Partner, GGA Communications and President-Elect, The Empire Club of Canada.

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Collaborations: Canada's New Natural Advantage

Aventis Pastseur as Canada's--and the world's--largest vaccine company. Former names of Aventis. Their merger as a powerful example of collaboration. The collaborative nature of Canadians. The need to embrace the collaboration among business, government and academia as a means to address and solve the problems and issues we face. How we are already doing so successfully. Some information and background to Aventis Pasteur as a clear example of the speaker's belief in Canada's ability to collaborate for success. An example from Canada's past of an heroic Canadian business achievement involving collaboration in the early 1900s. The founding of Connaught Laboratories. International activities of Aventis Pasteur. Some of the speaker's personal requirements for collaboration, which could also apply to leadership in general, with a brief discussion of each. Concluding remarks about collaborative skills and collaboration.