Under Jim Robinson’s leadership of Urovant Sciences, in early 2021, the Irvine, California-based company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Sumitovant Biopharma, and made its commercial debut with the launch of its first prescription product, GEMTESA® (vibegron), for patients with overactive bladders (OAB).
That achievement caps a period of significant evolution for Urovant Sciences. Jim is as proud of the company’s successes as he is humbled by the opportunity to shepherd it to new challenges in pursuing a vision to be recognized as an innovator and leader in urology.
Like many CEOs, Jim finds satisfaction in taking on business challenges. His 30-year pharmaceutical career began in sales, followed by executive leadership positions at several drug companies before joining the Urovant Sciences board of directors in March 2019.
Jim was named CEO a year later, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “Seeing our team’s resilience and accomplishments fills me with a sense of pride,” he says. “We built a best-in-class team; we achieved the on-time FDA approval of GEMTESA; and we managed to scale up manufacturing to meet our launch projections. It was simply unprecedented.”
He credits former Schering-Plough CEO Fred Hassan as a business role model. “Fred instilled a belief in the importance of building a corporate culture of engagement, collaboration, and open-mindedness,” he says. This guides Jim’s philosophy of leadership to this day. “Fred knew that people can thrive in the face of significant challenges if they are engaged, share accountability, and are driven by a will to innovate.”
Urovant Sciences’ recipe for success: people, product, process
“First, attract and retain the best talent, the right people who are ready to meet the challenges ahead,” Jim says. “Second, stay focused on delivering a product and resources that will address patients’ unmet needs. And third, enable efficient processes that drive success. Make sure everyone learns to work two levels up and down, and don’t confuse process with bureaucracy. Lastly, actively listen to learn and grow.”
Over the next three to five years, Urovant Sciences will remain focused on ensuring a successful commercial launch of GEMTESA for OAB patients, as well as advancing its development pipeline.
GEMTESA is a beta-3 adrenergic receptor (β3) agonist for the treatment of OAB with symptoms of urge urinary incontinence, urgency, and urinary frequency in adults. Approved by the US FDA in December 2020, it is the first new, branded oral OAB medication to reach the market in nearly a decade.
Jim is satisfied that the launch is off to a strong start, but he is the first to acknowledge that it will take focus and collaboration to address the inevitable challenges ahead. He draws important business lessons from his years playing rugby. “Rugby is a very fluid, dynamic game. You win by being able to react within seconds and move from playing one role to another, depending on the circumstances of the game. In business, you thrive and succeed by being flexible, embracing change, and driving a culture of engagement.”
Making an impact
“I am passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion as fundamental tenets that speak to the core of our company. We want to multiply that outside Urovant Sciences to foster DE&I in the urology specialty,” Jim says.
To help make this aspiration a reality, Urovant Sciences donated US$2 million to the Urology Cares Foundation in April 2021 to foster diversity and inclusion in urology research. The donation created an endowment to support the launch of the Leadership in Education, Achievement and Diversity program, which will support three scientists each year from racial and ethnic backgrounds underrepresented in urologic research.
Jim says gratitude is a fundamental aspect of his outlook on business – and life.
“Challenges are a natural part of life. Beyond finding solutions to setbacks is the need to be grateful for the opportunities to change and grow,” Jim says. “In health care, a significant challenge for us is in confronting apathy in how we treat patients. As an industry, we must keep our focus on meeting patients’ needs, and it is clear that patients need affordable access to medical innovation. As an industry, and as a company, we will thrive on how we grow.
“I believe there is no better example of what this industry is capable of achieving than the vaccines we now have as part of the global effort to bring an end to COVID-19. But these vaccines did not just appear. They are the result of decades of research and development, and the work of many talented people collaborating across several R&D-based companies, academic organizations, and government agencies.”