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Remaining at the forefront


Jan-Olof Jacke, AstraZeneca AB’s new CEO, on maintaining the company’s position in Sweden.

Keeping AstraZeneca AB in the forefront – as a research and marketing leader, a key component of Sweden’s domestic economy and export business and as a contributor to AstraZeneca’s overall growth – are priorities that AstraZeneca AB’s CEO Jan-Olof Jacke brings to his office in Mölndal, Gothenburg.

“My critical function is to support the Swedish part of AstraZeneca to make it as successful as it can be,” Jacke, 49, said. “Our objective is to move the group forward – we will do whatever we can locally to do that. AstraZeneca products represent about 4 percent of Sweden’s total exports. One of my jobs is to influence policy makers to make it as attractive as possible for AstraZeneca to be in Sweden.”


Jacke, who has a business background, sees his role as helping to create an environment that stimulates innovation. “It’s part of getting the most out of every individual,” he said. “We don’t want people to be afraid to fail; we must never forget that most of what we do won’t become a medicine.”

New approach

The AstraZeneca AB Jacke has taken over is physically smaller but more focused than a few years ago. In 2010 and 2012, AstraZeneca announced the closing of its research facilities in Lund and Södertälje, respectively. Some staff reductions also have been implemented at the company’s Mölndal site.

“Simply put, we had too complicated a geographic footprint,” according to Jacke. “Now we have fewer geographic locations, but we are open more broadly to the greater world. We have taken a very different approach to how we conduct research and development.” These include deeper and larger collaborations, such as the one with the Karolinska Institutet in the areas of cardiac regeneration; islet health as it pertains to diabetes and diabetic nephropathy across modalities like small molecules and biologics, as well as with other world class academic institutions across the world “Our purpose is not to focus on the location, but where we can do the most,” Jacke continued.

Diverse workplace

Recent activity in Mölndal has made it an exciting time for the town, according to Jacke. “At this point, I can’t imagine a better place to be,” said Jacke. “It is one of three strategic centers; we also have one in Maryland (in the U.S.) one in the UK (Cambridge).” The Mölndal site of AstraZeneca also is becoming one of the most diverse areas in the world, according to Jacke. “About 250 people from 30-plus countries have moved here to work. There is an international flavor from having so many different people here.”

Over the past year, under new CEO Pascal Soriot, the company as a whole has been concentrating more on being a scientific leader. “That (focus) drives a different behavior,” noted Jacke, “We don’t always go after the biggest opportunities; we spend more time on analysis and data. For me that has been a marked change in our focus. With a growing portfolio, we need to improve choices and improve productivity. ”For many years, the pharmaceutical industry has struggled to bring enough drugs to the market, and AstraZeneca’s new focus is designed to expedite the process. “We have a very dynamic scientific environment, so we can bring medicines forward, produce our medicines in ways that are efficient and reach out to patients without interruptions,” said Jacke.

Started 15 years ago

Jacke joined AstraZeneca in 1999, and alongside his CEO role in Sweden he also has a global position as Vice President of Finance and Procurement for Research and Development. He worked as a consultant for Astra during its merger with Zeneca and was impressed with its “fantastic culture and unprecedented brain power. I told my wife, ‘This is a place I really want to work.’” The company’s dedication to reaching patients with new medications and its willingness to collaborate with other institutions are unique aspects of AstraZeneca that appealed to him as well.

Jacke’s easy-going personality helps set the tone at AstraZeneca, press manager Jacob Lund said. “Jan-Olof is a very charming and positive person who always creates a nice atmosphere when entering a room,” according to Lund. “I have never ever seen him angry or upset. Once he said, ‘Why should I be upset? What benefit does that give me?’”

While he could not name any particular role models for his approach to running a company, Jacke noted, “I admire a lot of people for how they do things; you steal a little bit here; and appreciate what others have done.”

Family and cooking

While he works long days at AstraZeneca, when Jacke is not on the job, he tries to spend as much time as he can with his wife and 17-and 19 year-old daughters “I want to get the most out of the last few years while we have them at home,” he said of his daughters. Jacke also tries to find time to recharge outdoors and in the kitchen. Warm-weather pursuits include sailing and golf and he also enjoys skiing and paddle tennis. Cooking is another interest. “I find it incredibly relaxing and it’s one of the few times I feel I can be a little bit artistic,” Jacke said. “I try to be experimental.”

As Jacke continues his career at AstraZeneca, he hopes to see the company continue and accelerate its growth both as a research leader and efficient marketer. “I want to make sure that some of the medications that we launched over the past few years get to as many people as possible,” Jacke noted. “I get very proud when we get medicines all the way to the market.”


Jan-Olof Jacke
Born: January 2 1965.
Family: Wife and two daughters.
Position: CEO at AstraZeneca AB.
Education: Master’s degree from Gothenburg school of Economics and Commercial Law. Degree in Business and Administration with focus on Management and Management Accounting.
Career: Sales and marketing roles in small family owned business. Management consultant in a boutique consultancy firm. Finance roles in AZ since 1999 spanning R&D, Commercial, Business Development and Corporate. Significant involvement in restructuring and strategic change programs.