Brian Meltzer (Executive MBA, Healthcare Administration, ’00) calls himself the “puzzle master.”
As Global Medical Team Leader at Alexion, the rare-disease division of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, Brian leads a large, multidisciplinary team of staffers around the world who are carrying out clinical trials in 23 countries for a new drug in development. The drug in question, currently called ALXN1840, has shown success in Stage III trials for treatment of Wilson disease, a rare genetic condition that causes excess copper buildup in the body and is fatal if left untreated.
The clinical trials, while highly complex, are just one piece of the “puzzle” Brian calls the multiphase process of successfully developing a new drug according to international regulatory standards. “In the 15 years I’ve worked in pharmaceutical development, I’ve learned all the team positions you have to play in order to develop a drug, go through the regulatory processes, and bring it to market,” Brian says.
How did he get to this stage in his career? The most significant piece of his own personal puzzle, Brian says, is his time spent in the Executive MBA in Healthcare Administration program. “It unequivocally changed my life,” he says. “Because of the program, my career has gone in directions I never would have anticipated.”
Indeed. Twenty-some years ago, while he was working on his MBA, Brian—a physician who originally trained as a gastroenterologist—was building an oncology-dedicated urgent care center for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital. A couple of years after finishing his degree, he left the hospital world to focus on investments in healthcare biotechnology, then spent a few years developing startup ventures within Johnson & Johnson and Ortho Clinical Diagnostics before leading clinical innovation programs for Janssen, J&J’s pharmaceutical division. He worked in drug development for several pharmaceutical companies before landing at Alexion in 2018.
“Of all the schools I graduated from, [Zicklin] is the one I stay engaged with and donate to,” says Brian, who received his MD from SUNY Syracuse after finishing his BS in biomedical science at City College. “My educational experience here was the best of all of them—there wasn’t a single class I didn’t like.”
As a member of the Zicklin Dean’s Advisory Council, Brian hopes he can recreate that experience for today’s students. “Every major hospital and healthcare system in New York is led by alumni from [Zicklin] programs,” he points out. “I want to expand our healthcare program offerings, because there are always going to be careers in healthcare.”
Brian says his chief advice to prospective EMBA HCA students is to “come to the program with an eye toward what you think needs to change in healthcare.” The team aspect of the classes, he notes, helped him with his day job developing the urgent-care center at Sloan Kettering: “Working on team projects gave us the opportunity to solve problems for each other. It was like getting free consulting.”