In the "Magnified" series, we take a closer look at the life experiences & career journeys that have shaped AbbVie's leaders. Meet Roopal Thakkar, AbbVie's vice president of regulatory affairs and R&D quality assurance. From his time as a practicing physician to his experience overseeing global regulatory submissions for therapies and devices, Roopal lives by four tenets: empathy, listening, humility and self-awareness.
What inspired you to pursue a career in science and medicine?
I had an interest in medicine from a young age, partly driven by many relatives being in medicine but primarily by my mother's experience when I was quite young. She had a skin disorder that was challenging to diagnose years ago, and the effects were quite severe. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with pemphigus vulgaris, a rare autoimmune disease that required hospitalization and high-dose corticosteroids. Watching her difficult journey made me question why there weren't better treatment options.
After completing medical school and residency, I went on to fellowship training focusing on hypertension and kidney disease, and during this time, I was involved with many industry-sponsored studies. I gained experience as a sub-investigator and clinical coordinator, reviewing research protocols, investigator brochures, presenting to institutional review boards (IRBs), and collecting study data.
Why did you decide to come to Abbott, then ultimately, AbbVie?
An ad from Abbott in the New England Journal of Medicine for their internal physician development program piqued my interest. At the time, Abbott was the only pharma company I knew of with a formal rotation program that transitioned people into the industry, teaching them core aspects. The idea of reaching patients on a large scale appealed to me, as that was harder to do as a physician, so, in 2003, when a position became available, I joined. In the nearly 20 years that followed, I've held several positions in clinical development, including group project director for immunology, and now, I lead global regulatory affairs and R&D quality assurance.
Discuss your organization and role in leading Regulatory Affairs and R&D Quality Assurance. What are your team's focus areas and goals?
My team focuses on patients and their needs. A major goal is to bring new medicines to patients as quickly as possible. We work with colleagues across the company to design and develop optimized global regulatory and quality strategies to gain approvals for our products. We do this by first listening and understanding the perspectives of various functions, then taking it all in and acting.
In leading this group, my role is to build, inspire, and motivate the team, giving them the resources they need to succeed. My leadership team and I prioritize focusing on individual career goals, identifying needs for growth and development, and making them happen. It's critical to create a culture where people love what they do.