Features

Gregory M.C. Orleski – Pharmascience Inc. 

Writing the script for legal efficiency 

At the midpoint of his career as a business executive and lawyer immersed in life sciences, there didn’t seem much that Gregory Orleski hadn’t done.  

Canadian-born and educated, he had spent around half his working life in his native land and the rest around the world, including in the United States. When he wasn’t applying his global legal experience to advance the business objectives of a branded pharmaceutical company in a business leadership role, he was applying his acute business acumen in a legal leadership role for the same purpose. 

“Knowing the law is never enough,” he says. “You must, above all, understand the industry and, most importantly, the business, to maximize the impact of legal services.” 

Gregory M.C. Orleski | VP Legal Affairs, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary |  Pharmascience Inc. 

Gregory M.C. Orleski | VP Legal Affairs, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary |  Pharmascience Inc.

But the need for a new challenge beckoned. While Orleski had counseled global pharmaceutical companies big and small, established and startup, he hadn’t had that active a role in the generic industry where so much game-changing opportunity exists. That changed during the summer of 2017 when he returned to Canada’s largest privately-owned pharmaceutical company. 

Quite the agenda Montreal-based Pharmascience handed him, along with the titles of vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary, to create and build a legal department to support Pharmascience’s ambitious growth aspirations. While he had ably previously advised the company on business development initiatives from 2011 to 2015, this was a more uniquely consequential role. Nearly seven years later, the coalescence of his industry experience, a solid understanding of Pharmascience’s business, and breadth of legal knowledge resulted in what he calls a boutique specialty law firm within the company. 

“We’re a true one-stop legal shop,” the affable Orleski tells Vanguard in March through Microsoft Teams as two of his hires and direct reports, Director of IP Strategy Melanie Carpentier and Manager of Corporate Compliance and Privacy specialist Julien Simard, weigh in affirmatively. “As strategic business partners, we all possess a unique understanding of the pharmaceutical industry and all aspects of our business, from pipeline creation to global product sales.” 

A healthy injection 

Such cohesion is necessary to sustain Pharmascience’s ambitious growth plan, including a $120 million expansion that 2026 will triple the capacity at the company’s injectables manufacturing facility in the Montreal suburb of Candiac. Aside from the products that treat everything from cancer to diabetes, Orleski beams at how the 26,000-foot expansion will allow Pharmascience to invest $40 million to $50 million in research and development and hire 50 new highly skilled manufacturing professionals in addition to the existing 300 employees. 

Then there’s another equation that Orleski believes would better serve Canadians. Just 12 percent of the nation’s pharmaceutical supplies are domestically produced, and the expanded facility should make a notable difference.   

Candiac Sterile Plant Expansion. Bottom Left to Right: Marie-Eve Monnette, Genevieve Bertrand, Melanie Carpentier Top Left to Right: Gregory M. C. Orleski, Julien Simard, Patrick Sartore, Dimitrios Liosis

While the men and women in lab coats do their business, Orleski’s legal team oversees various matters and strives to maximize the impact on the business and its growth. According to him, to achieve this, the department focuses on a few critical business areas: governance, corporate compliance, business transactions, IP and litigation. 

Second to none is the need to be sticklers for corporate compliance, not just in Canada. Pharmascience nurtures core business interests in around 70 countries, with a direct presence in some, that’s a lot of ever-changing rulebooks to follow. With Simard’s University of Sherbrooke legal credentials augmented with a master’s in biology in health sciences and law, Orleski assures his younger understudy is equal to the task. 

He’s just as confident about Carpentier’s expertise on intellectual properties, she having earned a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Montreal before logging nearly 15 years as a patent agent and technical advisor with Goudreau Gage Dubuc (now Lavery), one of Canada’s leading IP legal firms. 

Candiac Sterile Plant Expansion

According to Orleski, the legal commercial team’s understanding of its business results in focused competitive negotiations on a wide range of transactions that drive the growth of its domestic and international generic and branded businesses and research partnerships with prominent research entities, including the Montreal Heart Institute.  

As with any business comes the need to protect the company from litigation. 

“Canada,” he says, “is much more contentious today than a decade ago. In the past seven years, a lot of litigation has migrated north from the USA to Canada, and we need to vigorously defend against these claims — many of which we have won.” 

Biopharma biz as usual 

Originally from Edmonton, he earned his undergraduate degree in economics and French literature at the University of Alberta and proceeded to McGill University to pursue two business law degrees.  

Shortly after graduating, he pursued business and legal leadership roles at Merck, Valeant and Abbott, started his own company, which he sold, and acted as a business advisor and board member to industry associations, not-for-profit organizations and young companies before joining Pharmascience.  

And, he emphasizes, just as there’s a formula for pharmaceuticals, there’s one for creating, building and managing his 17-member legal department—and it starts with carefully vetting the hires for professionals with a passion for business and fashioning them into a quasi sports team, where each member is nurtured, held accountable, expected to strive for excellence and become the best they can be while playing off each other’s strengths and working toward a common goal. He says to always choose people who know the industry and business and are driven to contribute to the company’s success and growth. 

“Recently, we had five people join our team, and within the first week of them being here, the resounding comment was, ‘I can’t believe how much I feel at home,’” Orleski says. “Right away, they feel like they’ve been here for a long time.” 

First Annual Pickle/Paddle Ball Match

Soon to celebrate her sixth anniversary at Pharmascience, Carpentier joins Orleski in exclaiming how the company is a choice employer, a mainstay on those corporate lists of best places to work, best places for women, most trusted executives and best for recent graduates. Her sentiment is echoed by Simard, who also joined Pharmascience in 2018. 

“We’re hiring people we connect with before hiring legal professionals,” says Simard. “The first thing we look at is for passion and whether there’s a human connection. Law and science will follow.” 

This is equally true concerning the company’s Next Generation Leaders program, of which the legal department is an enthusiastic participant, identifying undergrads and offering them summer internships with Pharmascience’s legal team. 

The legal team has the right teacher in Orleski. Nearly three decades in the pharmaceutical industry, he shows no signs of slowing up. Should he need to blow off steam, he runs, hikes or simply relishes the outdoor splendors of Quebec and his native Alberta. A married father of three grown children, he and his wife have recently held their second grandson 

“My life’s greatest achievement is my family, and a very close second, is Pharmascience’s legal team that I am privileged and proud to lead,” he says.   

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring II 2024 Edition here.

        

Published on: April 11, 2024

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