Gregory Orleski – Pharmascience
Within the pharmaceutical industry, one might say that Gregory Orleski has seen it all in a career spanning more than 20 years. But his fascination for business keeps him coming back for more.
That was certainly the case with Montreal-based Pharmascience Inc.
Initially joining as a business development advisor, a role he held from 2011-2015, Orleski returned in 2017 as the company’s general counsel, VP of legal affairs and corporate secretary. Now, he’s helping the manufacturer of generic and branded drugs create a more dynamic and responsive legal department.
He certainly has a deep well to draw from.
Having worked in Canada, the U.S. and internationally, Orleski immersed himself in every facet of the pharmaceutical industry, from research and development to the production, marketing and sale of prescription drugs, as well as innovative and generic over-the-counter medications.
Over the course of his career, he’s gained experience working in strategic business development roles, leveraged his legal expertise to serve as legal counsel for large international corporations, and even successfully started his own derma cosmeceutical company.
“There is always more for me to learn in this ever-shifting industry. That’s what keeps me coming back,” Orleski says. “Understanding the law is the baseline; the big picture is what is paramount and I’m here to share with younger lawyers what it means to be a true business partner and the impact we can make on the business.”
Setting the ground rules
Founded in 1983, Pharmascience is the largest pharmaceutical employer in Quebec and the fourth largest manufacturer of generic drugs in Canada, according to IQVIA/IMS, with distribution in more than 60 countries.
When Orleski first arrived as a business advisor, his efforts were focused specifically on increasing productivity of business development efforts across the company’s three business units, which have 1,500 employees.
“I was assisting the business to identify and structure opportunities as well as connecting the dots between functional areas and business development efforts,” Orleski says. “Our goal was to have everyone working towards a common goal in a concerted fashion. To achieve this, I looked at ways to improve proficiency, efficiency and ultimately productivity. That meant each person had to understand their role, to be trained and given the right tools and processes to be competitive. These changes allowed for business deals to conclude quickly and avoid procrastinated negotiations.”
Stepping away to pursue a personal project building his own company, Orleski created Intega Skin Sciences in the summer of 2015. He sold it in the fall of 2017, prior to his return to Pharmascience—this time to lead and develop a new legal department.
With a background that includes business development, economics and accounting, as well as business and commercial law, he jokes that he offered himself as two professionals for the price of one.
“A good portion of my time is spent supporting business initiatives, the other, practicing law,” Orleski says. “It really is two sides of the same coin.”
The reconnection was a mutually beneficial one, allowing him to put all of his skills to work. The legal team’s responsibilities are vast and varied and impact all facets of Pharmascience’s business; from research and development to pipeline creation, manufacturing, marketing and sales, in addition to transactional work to grow the business, he explains.
“Our legal team of 13 professionals is now increasing more of its efforts to provide strategic legal services to support and contribute to business strategy and growth,” Orleski says. “Every company needs established legal services to help it achieve greatness.”
Building from scratch
Following his return to Pharmascience, the first step toward building its legal team involved meeting with the vice presidents of the company to understand their challenges and find their pain points.
“I wanted to know what keeps them up at night and have a thorough understanding about what’s going on in their world,” Orleski says.
From there, he sought to understand the gap between existing legal services and what was required to support businesses strategies and objectives. Questions abounded: What competencies did the legal team need? What experience would create legal innovation? What external legal support was needed in countries where we conduct business? What structure would capitalize on the teams’ experience and competencies and maximize impact on Pharmascience’s business?
“Only after gathering that information could the voyage to building a legal department responsive to the businesses’ needs commence,” he says.
After almost three years the work is well-advanced. It was important to attract top talent—lawyers with a passion for business, strong business acumen and a sense of values that can see beyond problems and lead initiatives.
“In the last year, things have really come together and we can look at legal team members as true strategic partners. Being a good lawyer isn’t enough anymore. Everyone now understands the mission and direction of the company,” he says.
Steeped in experience
That direction and philosophy came after years of study at the University of Alberta and McGill University, and years working with both Canadian and global American companies such as Merck Frosst, Valeant Pharmaceuticals and LaboPharm Inc. in Montreal, and Abbott Laboratories in Chicago.
For Orleski, the work couldn’t have been more rewarding. If he’s not delving into the business and legal issues, he’s busy sharing what he’s learned by teaching and mentoring.
“I love sharing my experience and encouraging others to embrace it, adopt it and modify it to help them further their professional development and become the best they can be,” Orleski says, noting several of his protégés have gone on to become vice presidents and general counsels elsewhere.
But it’s the process of analyzing and solving complex problems—looking at any situation first through the lens of business, then law—that he never tires of.
“They are really two reflections, or ways of looking at one problem,” Orleski says. “The beauty is that there’s always a solution; the challenge is believing it.”
For him that journey led to Pharmascience—not once, but twice.
“I have a privileged career with opportunities some people only dream of,” Orleski says. “That’s why I’m here.”
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