As chairman and CEO of Celgene Corporation, a global biopharmaceutical company based in Summit, Bob Hugin feels incredibly fortunate when he reflects on how far he's come, both personally and professionally, over the past four decades.
“I’ve always been a big believer in making decisions that lead to lifelong learning,” said Hugin, who, armed with this philosophy while growing up in Union City, became the first member of his family to attend college. He also was the first student in the history of his high school to receive admission to Princeton University.
“College opened up the world to me and made me see there was so much more to learn than I ever imagined,” he said.
After graduating from Princeton in 1976, Hugin felt a great obligation to serve his country and give back. As a result, he joined the Marine Corps, where he spent seven years learning valuable life lessons and leadership skills that he still applies today.
“The Marine Corps taught me a tremendous sense of responsibility,” he said. “I had the opportunity to serve with some great leaders who demonstrated how the lives of people are directly affected by how one leads. I learned that while many people can lead when things are going well, the most impactful leaders are those who can change adversity into opportunity.”
The time Hugin spent in the Marines also helped him think about his career and where he wanted to make an impact. Noticing numerous opportunities in the business world, he earned an MBA from the University of Virginia in 1985, and went on to spend more than 10 years as a managing director with J.P. Morgan & Co. Inc.
“I enjoyed an extremely great career on Wall Street, but I felt there was more I wanted to do from a management perspective,” Hugin said.
Intrigued by the rapidly emerging biotechnology industry, Hugin joined Celgene in 1999 as its chief financial officer. At the time, the company had approximately 100 employees and a market cap of less than $300 million. Today, under his leadership, Celgene is an $87 billion global company with more than 6,000 employees focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of innovative therapies for unmet medical needs in cancer and immune-inflammatory disease.
Extremely proud of the company’s mission and values, Hugin credits its continued success to each and every team member and their commitment to improving the lives of patients worldwide. Whether it’s working to deliver innovative therapies to emerging markets that lack proper infrastructure, or pursuing regulatory approvals to bring new options to treat rare diseases, they are fully engaged, he said.
“We are a company of groundbreakers, advocates, partners, creators and colleagues dedicated to building a company where every employee’s best work is supported and celebrated for the impact it has on patient lives,” Hugin said. “One of the most satisfying aspects of my job is the opportunity to interact with high-potential people and help them grow, which, in turn, directly contributes to Celgene’s success.”
By taking chances and investing heavily into research and development, Hugin has led Celgene in being able to offer patients options that can enhance their quality of life.
“It’s not hard to set bold goals – you don’t need to meet many cancer patients to understand the urgency,” said Hugin, adding that his greatest motivation comes from a commitment to putting patients first.
Hugin also supports Celgene’s employees in reaching out to their communities and engaging in activities that focus on patients. For example, employees exceeded their fundraising goal for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Light The Night” event last year by 247 percent. They also run collections for breast cancer research and have donated money for tsunami relief efforts.
Looking five to 10 years down the road, Hugin predicts Celgene will be turning some of the most formidable disease challenges of the 21st century into manageable conditions.
“By embracing innovation, we will be able to continue doing well by doing good, while promoting global prosperity and human progress for a better tomorrow,” he said.