5 Questions with Elissa Cote, Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals

“5 Questions With…” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people in the BioHealth Capital Region to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. This week we welcome Elissa Cote, Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals.

Elissa Cote is the senior vice president and chief strategy and business development officer at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. She has responsibility for corporate strategy, licensing, M&A and alliance management, and is a member of Mallinckrodt’s senior leadership team.

Ms. Cote has nearly 15 years of direct experience in the biopharmaceutical industry and an additional 10 years of experience in strategic and management consulting. Ms. Cote has extensive expertise in business and commercial strategy, as well as therapeutic and disease area strategy in several core therapeutic areas including CNS, auto-immune/inflammation, gastrointestinal, respiratory, hepatology, regenerative medicine and rare orphan disease. Ms. Cote also has significant expertise in business development, global strategic marketing, pre-commercialization/new product planning, business analytics and insights and portfolio and product prioritization in addition to experience in international markets including Europe, Japan, and China.

Previously, Ms. Cote led the marketing and alliance management teams at Sucampo Pharmaceuticals until 2018 when Sucampo was acquired by Mallinckrodt where she then took on the role of senior vice president, head of global marketing and commercial development. Before joining Sucampo, Ms. Cote held roles of increasing responsibility at Histogenics Corporation and AstraZeneca. Prior to joining the life sciences industry, Ms. Cote spent over 10 years as a strategy and management consultant at Accenture.

1. Please introduce yourself to our audience with a look back at your education, training, and career.

I am Elissa Cote, and I’ve lived in Northern VA with my family since I moved here in 1998.  I am actually considered a ‘transplant’ because I grew up in Maryland until I left for college in 1992. As most of the BioBuzz readers know, you are either a die-hard Virginian or a die-hard Marylander.  So I guess I am a proper hybrid.

I attended a small liberal arts college, Union College, in upstate NY with every intention of going to law school (I wanted to focus on a career in medical malpractice law).  Instead, I wound up going a totally different route my senior year – I was hired by Anderson Consulting (now Accenture) in 1996 and was a strategic/management consultant for the first half of my career.  In my 30s, I made a career shift to pharma/biotech after I had kids, and started with Medimmune in 2008… and ~13 years later, my pharma journey has brought me here to Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, where I have been working for more than three years.

2. Introduce Mallinckrodt to our readers with a little history, locations and vision.  

Most people don’t know that Mallinckrodt is a 150+ year-old company, which has a very long history and rich heritage.  The company has actually been formulating and supplying pharmaceutical products since before the turn of the 20th Century. Mallinckrodt was founded in 1867 in St. Louis, Missouri as one of the first chemical manufacturing companies. The company evolved into a nuclear medicines and global pharmaceuticals company, moving at some point into radio-pharmaceuticals over the next several decades.

Mallinckrodt is now a global business consisting of multiple wholly owned subsidiaries that develop, manufacture, market and distribute specialty pharmaceutical products and therapies and generics. The company’s specialty pharmaceuticals business include autoimmune and rare diseases in specialty areas like neurology, rheumatology, nephrology, pulmonology and ophthalmology; immunotherapy and neonatal respiratory critical care therapies; analgesics and gastrointestinal products. The specialty generics business includes specialty generic drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients. We report approximately $3B in revenue and have more than 3,000 employees worldwide. 

3. You’ve been here in the BioHealth Capital Region for a while with companies like MedImmune and Sucampo. In what ways have you see the region evolve into a bigger hub?

It has been pretty remarkable over the last two decades to see first-hand how the capital region has changed and evolved into this booming mecca for BioHealth. For a long time, biopharma companies had found good homes in the typical US states and geographies such as New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts (Boston, Cambridge, Waltham), California (San Diego, San Francisco), PA (Philly) and North Carolina.  Over the last decade however, pharma, and especially biotech, has really blown up in Maryland. I remember when I could only name and count the pharma/biotech companies that I knew in the area on one hand, maybe two if I was lucky. 

Now in 2021, it feels like a new pharma/biotech company or manufacturing plant/facility is either starting up, relocating or expanding their business in Maryland every month.  So the original vision for this area becoming a biotech hub is actually a real thing now.  Having grown up in Silver Spring, MD, I am thrilled and proud that my home state is now considered one of the premier areas for pharma and biotech to find a home.  It is really quite impressive.

4. As Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer at Mallinckrodt, what is something you’re really excited and proud to be working on right now? Tell us about it.

Mallinckrodt embraces the development of their leaders and top talent.  I have been fortunate enough to be a primary beneficiary of this culture and mentality over the last 3 years.

As our industry continues to change and evolve, pharma companies change alongside it, and Mallinckrodt is no different. Being front and center as Mallinckrodt works to adapt to and embrace change and other business challenges unique to our company, has been an incredible learning experience. As Chief Strategy & BD Officer, I am responsible for translating this into our corporate & enterprise strategy and growth plans… which is challenging and sometimes daunting, but also rewarding and energizing all at the same time. 

Frankly, I can’t imagine being in any other role right now, and I am grateful to the incredible colleagues, leaders and friends who have taught me and supported me along the way, such as my colleagues at Accenture (a lot of whom I am still close to today) and the life-long friends/colleagues at MedImmune (you know who you are RIA team).

To answer your question directly, there is a specific development program in a rare orphan disease that I have supported and led over the past several years (across 2 different companies) that impacts me every day. The program is the one part of my job that makes me jump out of bed in the morning at the thought of being able to somehow make a difference in patient’s lives; while at the same time, it keeps me awake almost every night, trying to figure out how to overcome the challenges we face as an industry tackling the complicated conundrum of bringing rare orphan drugs to the market… and most importantly, to patients. 

5. If You Could Learn Any One Skill In The World Without Trying (Like in the Matrix), Which Would You Pick and Why?

I would choose learning to fly.  I have always been interested in aerodynamics and fascinated about how these giant pieces of metal can glide weightlessly (or so it would appear) through the air.  My amazement, curiosity and wonder about flying runs so deep, that I joke with my friends/family that I must have been a pilot in a past life… not an airline pilot, but maybe a fighter pilot or even an astronaut. 

Perhaps I will learn how to fly (again?) in the next life, because frankly, this life is a little too busy.

Thank you Elissa Cote, Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals for participating in the ‘5 Questions with BioBuzz’ series, and stay tuned for more interviews with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region and beyond.

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