Heidrick to Lead Search for Unilife CEO

March 18, 2016 – Heidrick & Struggles has been selected by Unilife Corporation to lead its search for a chief executive officer. Unilife founder Alan Shortall has resigned as CEO and chairman, though he will remain with the company as a paid consultant. John Ryan, a senior vice president at Unilife, will serve as interim president and CEO.

“Unilife has developed an industry-leading portfolio of injectable drug delivery systems to serve our current and future strategic customers,” said Mr. Ryan. “This realignment of our leadership marks an important turning point for Unilife.”

The shakeup comes after Unilife posted a $90 million net loss for 2015 and laid off about 70 employees, or 25 percent of its workforce, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Unilife is a U.S.-based developer and commercial supplier of injectable drug delivery systems. Its portfolio of innovative, differentiated products includes prefilled syringes with automatic needle retraction, drug reconstitution delivery systems, auto-injectors, wearable injectors, insulin delivery systems, ocular delivery systems and novel systems.


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According to Deloitte’s just released 2016 global sector outlook on life sciences, persistent talent shortages in the sector and the need to develop and retain employees with critical business and technology skill sets will continue to challenge global life sciences companies of all kinds as they try to navigate a new world of work — one that requires a dramatic change in strategies for leadership, talent, and human resources.

According to life sciences sector specialist Bianca Coulter, finding leaders for organizations throughout the field impacts the industry’s ability to deliver advances in diagnosis, prevention, treatment and management of disease. Hence the need to recruit just the right ones who can transform the organizations they join.

“This entire sector has changed beyond anyone’s expectations over the last two decades,” said Ms. Coulter. “We need to understand the appetites and needs of organizations throughout the field, and this requires reach into all corners of the market.”

Other recruiters specializing in the sector say it is in the midst of a ‘turbulent transformation,’ thus requiring leadership and executive teams that bring vision.

According to Catalyst Advisors’ Annual Review and Outlook, the new and more competitive environment within the sector has had significant implications for boards of directors and CEOs looking to fill key board and management positions.

John Archer, who founded Catalyst in 2008 and is a highly sought after recruitment and leadership solutions advisor, said that when an industry goes into overdrive for an extended period and the rate of growth outstrips the supply of proven leaders, the senior talent management function can come under particular stress.

“It’s critical for these businesses to get the right people into leadership roles — people who have the technical knowledge, the vision and the leadership skills to take a team to success in unknown territory,” he said. But, he added, the talent that can meet that range of requirements is receding.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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