Adelene Perkins won a Stevie Award for Best Executive in the 2009 edition of the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, and was a member of this year's final judging committee.
What item of news recently caught your eye and why?
The news that has been catching my eye every single day for the past couple of years is the whole healthcare-reform debate in the United States. What stuns me is that the dialog is so narrowly focused on the issue of coverage. While that is important, the more complex issue is fixing the system. We need to focus on ensuring the healthcare system provides high-quality care at a reasonable cost and on how to increase the value of healthcare. Fixing the system is a much tougher issue. If we are so stuck on the easier issue, will it ever be possible to handle the tougher one?
What book are you currently reading?
I’ve just started reading Sarah's Key
by Tatiana de Rosnay. It‘s historical fiction about the treatment of Jews in France during World War II and what an American journalist living in Paris finds out about it 60 years later. It was recommended to me by a friend, but you’ll have to come back to me when I’ve finished it for my own review.
What was the last movie you saw, and would you recommend it?
The most recent move I saw, which I didn’t love, was The Expendables, featuring virtually all the action heroes of the last decade. A movie that I did love, however, was Invictus
— although I didn’t particularly enjoy the rugby parts because my son plays rugby and they were almost too painful for me to watch!
What is your favorite sport or hobby?
While I love all sports, skiing is my favorite. In professional life I have to be measured about taking risks and I try hard to keep things under control, but when I’m skiing I take risks and love being on the edge, totally absorbed in the moment and a little out of control, at times.
Who is your favorite historical figure?
Someone who really resonated for me right after I came out of business school was Ronald Reagan. I can hear his voice now saying: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” He was an extraordinary man, who led his nation and the world to a different place.
Who (apart from close family) is your favorite living person?
The most inspirational person for me today is Nelson Mandela. As the film Invictus showed, Mandela had the courage to take a stand that was unpopular with people on both sides of the apartheid issue because of his belief in the good of the whole. His appreciation for the need to win people’s hearts—and his ability to do so through something both as simple and as complicated as a rugby tournament—was inspiring. That’s something you often have to do in business, too: take a tough stand, but be able to win people’s hearts. Mandela showed the way.
If you could choose another profession, what would it be?
I have to say that I can’t imagine liking any profession more than the one I’m in. But if had to choose, I could see myself as a doctor. How rewarding it must be, though difficult at times, to work directly with patients and have a significant impact on their lives and well-being.
What quality or qualities do you most value in your business associates?
That’s an easy one for me. I love people who are passionate. You can see it in the way they tackle their job, what they do, and how they do it. It’s the most important thing I look for in colleagues and it’s wonderful to find.
What do you think is the worst bad habit to have at work?
One that I find really terrible is being on a laptop, Blackberry, or some other device during a meeting. It sends such a terrible message. The people you are with need to know that they have your undivided attention and that what you are discussing is of interest and importance. We tend to fool ourselves that we can multitask without consequences, but meetings are far more productive if everyone is focused and engaged. I try not to bring electronic devices with me to a meeting as I know how tempting they are to use.
As someone at the top of your profession, what keeps you inspired or makes you hit the ground running in the morning?
The thing that keeps me inspired is the importance of our company mission. The thing that makes me hit the ground running is the people I’m working with to carry out this mission. We all really share a passion for what we are doing, which makes coming to work every day incredibly rewarding.
What do you consider has been your greatest achievement in business?
The phenomenal progress we have made in building this company. It has been a privilege to help bring Infinity to the point where we can now fulfill our mission of delivering important new drugs to patients.
What advice or useful tip would you give to someone who is just starting out in business?
Two things: First, find an organization with a mission you can be really passionate about. It is important to find a job in which your work contributes positively to what you hope to accomplish in life. The discussion of work/life balance (which inappropriately suggests work is in conflict with life) can then turn to the more appropriate discussion of the work/non-work balance of your very full and fulfilling life!
Second, focus on the success of the team. The most important thing, at all stages of one’s career, is to put the success of the team first—personal success will follow. A team may fail—and it would be difficult to consider an individual successful given that every team member is responsible for that failure—but the ideal is to be a key player on a winning team. Over time, real team players and the key team contributors will always be recognized.
About Adelene Perkins
Adelene Q. Perkins is President and Chief Executive Officer of Infinity Pharmaceuticals. She has over 25 years of international business and corporate strategy experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, focused on licensing and business development, strategic finance, product life cycle management, and leading high-caliber, cross-functional teams. Since joining the company as Chief Business Officer in 2002, Perkins has played an integral role in leading Infinity in its transition from a platform to a product-based organization. She has also been the principal figure in structuring, executing, and managing all of Infinity's innovative strategic relationships, including its global alliance with Purdue Pharmaceutical Products L.P. and Mundipharma International Corporation Ltd. Perkins served as President and Chief Business Officer of Infinity from 2008-2009 prior to becoming President and Chief Executive Officer in 2010.
Perkins joined Infinity from TransForm Pharmaceuticals, where she served as Vice President of Business and Corporate Development and an early member of the management team that built the company prior to its acquisition by Johnson & Johnson. Prior to TransForm, she was with Genetics Institute, now a unit of Wyeth, where she was Vice President of Emerging Businesses and the cofounder and General Manager of the DiscoverEase™ Business Unit. She also formed and served as Chief Executive Officer of MetaMorphix, a joint venture between Genetics Institute and Johns Hopkins University, directed at discovering and developing members of the TGF-b superfamily. At Genetics Institute she led corporate and product strategy initiatives and was responsible for numerous business development transactions, including both in- and out-licensing technologies and products. From 1985-1992, Ms. Perkins was at Bain & Company, an international strategy-consulting firm, where she provided strategic and operational advice to clients in the healthcare industry.
Ms. Perkins holds an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Villanova University. She is on the Board of Project Hope and the Villanova University College of Engineering Advisory Board. She lives with her husband and four children in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
About Infinity Pharmaceuticals
Infinity is an innovative drug discovery and development company seeking to discover, develop, and deliver to patients best-in-class medicines for difficult-to-treat diseases. Infinity combines proven scientific expertise with a passion for developing novel small-molecule drugs that target emerging disease pathways. Infinity's programs in the inhibition of the Hsp90 chaperone system, the Hedgehog pathway, fatty acid amide hydrolase, and phosphoinositide-3-kinase are evidence of its innovative approach to drug discovery and development. For more information on Infinity, please refer to the company's website at http://www.infi.com.