New CEO Dave Ricks: Excited, Humbled, Grateful

Dave Ricks, just named to become Lilly’s CEO on January 1, 2017, sat down for an interview with LillyPad to discuss how it feels to prepare for his new role.

What’s the first thing that went through your mind when you learned you would be Lilly’s 11th chief executive?

The short answer is: a thousand things at once. First and foremost was a feeling of excitement, coupled with a strong sense of humility. And I’m very grateful to John Lechleiter, chairman, president, and CEO, and the board of directors for their confidence in me, and to the many people I’ve worked with over 20 years for great teamwork and commitment.

What should people expect from you for the rest of 2016?

Our mission is clear. For 140 years we’ve been using science to create better medicines, get them to patients safely and ethically, and make people well. That’s not going to change.

Priority one for me will be to work closely with John and to learn everything I can from him. And I’ll lead our planning for 2017, as we continue to launch new medicines and further accelerate and strengthen our pipeline.

Between upcoming data releases and product launches, we have an opportunity to make a truly unique contribution to science and humanity. I can’t think of anything more important to focus on.

Why did you come to Lilly 20 years ago, and why have you stayed?

I was born in Indiana but spent my childhood in the Bay Area on the West Coast and my high-school years outside New York City. I came back to Indiana to attend Purdue, where I met my wife, Chris. I left to work at IBM in New York, but came back while she was in medical school at Indiana University to get my MBA at IU, and then joined Lilly. So you could say I came here for love.

I have stayed at Lilly for the same professional reasons that many of my colleagues have: Mostly, it’s about the mission.  Running a business well is a noble thing to do. Running this business well is exceptional. We make lives better. That’s a good way to spend a career.

And it’s about the people. Lilly people care—not just about the company and the patients we serve—but also about one another. That’s not true in every big company.

What does the future look like for Lilly?

It’s very bright. We’ve emerged from a period of significant patent losses with a pipeline that is the strongest in Lilly’s history. We’ve launched six new medicines since 2014 and expect to launch 14 more by the end of 2023—for a total of 20 new medicines in a 10-year period. So there’s a lot to be excited about.

Our industry does face challenges, and there will be external forces we won’t be able to control. So a big part of my job will be to turn an external lens on our work and encourage people to continue to perform at their best in this new era.

How will life change for you as CEO?

The working life will change a lot, but I hope the personal life will change as little as possible. I’m at a different place in life than many of my predecessors--my wife, Chris, and I have three kids who are in grade school and high school. And Chris has a career as a pediatrician. So it will be important for me to keep a balance. I believe that’s healthier for my family—and for Lilly.