Building a Bold Future: A Discussion with a Biogen Brand Lead

Kevin Conway held Biogen in high esteem for many years before he ever worked here. He had long recognized Biogen as one of those pioneering companies with a transformative legacy in biotech. In particular, he admired the way Biogen continued to reinvent itself time after time, while fundamentally remaining committed to doing right by the people living with conditions that Biogen serves, and never shying away from a challenge.

When Conway was in business school, he read case studies about Biogen product launches. He’s even had family members who’ve been prescribed Biogen therapies or participated in Biogen clinical trials. Deep down, he somehow always knew he’d end up joining the company. And we couldn’t be happier that he’s a vital part of our team.

Read on as Kevin explains his professional background, his current position with Biogen, and what he most enjoys about working here. 

Your official title at Biogen is Brand Lead, U.S. SMA Marketing. Please explain what your role includes, and what it’s like on a daily basis.

I oversee a U.S. marketing team that’s responsible for supporting people with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), providing hope for a community of patients and their families where there really wasn’t anything before, and laying the groundwork for an entire category of therapies we see today. That’s a powerful role to step into, and one I think we all take seriously, and which inspires us in our work every day. 

A typical day can really vary, which is one of the things I find so rewarding about this work. One day we could be at a congress showcasing the latest clinical evidence; the next, we’re out in the field with our representatives and customers; then, we’re staffing the booth and engaging with families at an event; and finally, we come back to a workshop with our cross-functional partners where we work together to build new ways of communicating about SMA. For me, the variety of work that we do keeps the day-to-day exciting and means there’s always something new to learn.

Can you tell everyone about your professional background, and how you arrived at Biogen?

Educationally, I have a background in neuroscience, which is helpful when you work in the neurology category. After college, I worked in biomedical research labs in the greater Boston area for several years before making the transition to commercial. My first role was at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in their medical devices practice. This was an amazing opportunity for me, and I learned a lot of fundamentals (analysis, executive communication) and had the opportunity to go deep on some of the big trends driving healthcare change at the time.

After BCG, I had my first, and so far, only west coast stint, joining Boston Scientific’s Neuromodulation division to launch their U.S. franchise for Deep Brain Stimulation, a fiercely competitive segment with a rapid cadence of product innovation and customer base with a very high standard of evidence. I worked on a few U.S. and EU launches at BSC, and eventually I moved back to Boston and took a role at Alexion Pharmaceuticals, running a marketing team focusing exclusively on ultra-rare metabolic diseases.

Would you tell us about the factors that attracted you to work for Biogen?

I was recruited to Biogen in mid-2023. I wanted to be part of the journey to build out our rare disease portfolio. There aren’t a lot of times in life when you get the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something truly new in an organization, and this was one of those times that I knew I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t take the chance. I’m fortunate because I’m exposed to amazing leaders in our organization who’ve had storied careers and who I get to learn from every day. They’re incredibly inspiring mentors and I can tell they’re invested in my growth.

If you could point to your one most satisfying achievement since you arrived at Biogen, what would it be?

Building out the marketing team for SMA and working to create excitement internally to develop a bold future in this space.

I realize that you are still new to the team, but how has Biogen helped you to learn and grow in this role?

In this role, I’ve had the opportunity to step into some areas of marketing that were new for me, and I’ve welcomed the opportunity to learn. I’ve also been challenged to lead through some difficult circumstances. Through this, I’ve been blessed with great mentors and coaches to give me perspective.

Which skills and characteristics would a new employee need to succeed as part of your team?

To me, the most important characteristics are attitudinal. Can you problem-solve? Can you get to “yes” with a large group of people who approach a problem from several functional viewpoints? Are you satisfied with the status quo? Can you take feedback? Passion is probably the most important thing. Anyone can do a job. But do you live and breathe it, and are you all-in? 

From a skills perspective, I very much believe in building a team with diverse skill sets. To that end, I like to balance teams with people with deep pharma/biotech experience with individuals from non-traditional backgrounds from outside our industry. I think long-term runway is more important than 100 percent proficiency today.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

I had a leader early on in my career who was the first person to share with me the Maya Angelou quote that no one will remember what you did, but everyone will remember how you made them feel. To me, it’s an important reminder that at the end of the day, this is a people-to-people business, and it’s a good reminder that as much as we value drive, innovation and results, it’s important to balance that with patience, grace, and a sense of fun.