Leading Thru’ Innovation: Colette Matz Discusses Novartis Hungary’s Plans

Interview

Colette Matz, country president of Novartis Hungary.

Colette Matz, the newly appointed leader at Novartis Hungary who replaced Matt Zeller, shares her excitement and vision for the future, discussing her leadership style, the challenges facing the industry, and the innovative strides Novartis is making in healthcare technology.

BBJ: First of all, congratulations on your appointment. Could you share your leadership philosophy and how you plan to apply it to navigate the dynamic environment at Novartis Hungary?

Colette Matz: I’m thrilled to work with Novartis Hungary’s accomplished team, which includes many internationally recognized professionals. Hungary’s rich historical, cultural, and natural heritage makes this an exciting place. Although relocating can be challenging, my family and I are excited to make Budapest our home for the foreseeable future.

Regarding my philosophy, I believe in demonstrating an inspirational leadership approach that generates innovative ideas while prioritizing individuals’ well-being. I strongly believe in fostering an open, transparent dialogue with the team, regardless of hierarchy. My recent experience working in Italy has given me a better understanding of the cultural differences between the United States and Europe, although I continue to learn. We have high ambitions at Novartis Hungary; I believe creating an environment that fosters innovation and employee well-being will allow people to bring their best selves to work each day.

BBJ: The pharmaceutical industry is facing numerous global challenges. What are the most pressing for Novartis Hungary, and how do you plan to address them?

CM: We are committed to ensuring that patients receive the best possible care by providing timely access to innovative treatments and therapies. We are excited to share news of our joint initiative with the Ministry of Innovation and Technology and Semmelweis University. This initiative, which began in 2022, is a testament to our commitment to speeding up the digitization of clinical research, promoting cell and gene therapies, and launching a cardiovascular intervention program that utilizes AI and machine learning. We plan to introduce more than 15 essential therapies in critical areas such as cardiovascular diseases, immunology, neuroscience, and oncology over the next four years, shaping the future of healthcare. Our company in Hungary is proud to play an important role in conducting numerous clinical trials.

BBJ: What is your vision for how Novartis Hungary might leverage digital innovation to improve patient care and operational efficiency?

CM: We want to enhance patient care and improve operational efficiency through digital innovation. Our goal is to optimize patient outcomes, streamline healthcare delivery, and drive meaningful advancements in treatment and care management. We aim to integrate digital platforms and data analytics to personalize patient care, improve treatment adherence, and enhance disease management. We believe that our digital strategy, which includes leveraging AI, can help accelerate clinical research, identify high-risk cardiovascular disease patients, and optimize treatment pathways. Our aforementioned partnership shows our dedication to being at the forefront of gene and cell therapy and clinical research.

BBJ: Sustainability and corporate social responsibility are becoming critical considerations for the pharmaceutical industry. What initiatives or strategies will help Novartis Hungary become more sustainable?

CM: My colleagues are passionate about our work because we have the opportunity to help people, develop more efficient therapies, and support the national healthcare system. At Novartis Hungary, sustainability and corporate social responsibility are essential to our mission. We are dedicated to implementing initiatives and strategies to contribute to a sustainable future. Our efforts in environmental sustainability align with our initiatives to reduce our footprint through energy-efficient practices and responsible waste management.

BBJ: With most of the year still ahead, can you tell us whether Novartis Hungary has any special projects planned for 2024?

CM: In 2024, Novartis Hungary is excited to intensify our efforts to improve cardiovascular health. We are committed to consolidating scientific collaborations and implementing population health initiatives, such as continuing local screening programs. We are thrilled that the government is prioritizing cardiovascular health during its EU Presidency in the latter half of this year, and we wholeheartedly pledge our support. Our goal is to use our expertise to enhance the platform for comprehensive cardiovascular care in Hungary, both at the global and European levels. We are dedicated to making a lasting impact on health and well-being through these efforts, leveraging our heritage of innovation.

Colette Matz has a 24-year career in the pharmaceutical industry in the United States and internationally, built on a healthcare administration and management degree from the University of Scranton in the United States. She brings a wealth of business development expertise and a track record of driving innovation, particularly in treating neuroscience and cardiovascular diseases. Most recently, from September 2021 to March 2024, Matz was head of the neuroscience therapeutic area with Novartis Italia, based in Milan, Lombardy, Italy. There, she was responsible for leading the marketing and sales strategy for the neuroscience portfolio and was a member of the Italian pharma leadership team.

Matz’ predecessor as country president at Novartis Hungary, Matt Zeller, was most recently interviewed in the Nov. 12, 2023, print issue of the Budapest Business Journal (see “Novartis Hones its Innovation Focus in Hungary.”) He was also shortlisted for the Expat CEO of the Year award in 2023. Zeller was appointed country president of the company’s operation in Australia and New Zealand effective December 2023 and moved with his family to Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of April 19, 2024.

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