Ricardo Muza —Pfizer Andean Region
It’s a long stretch from his office in Santiago, Chile, to Quito, Ecuador–over 2,350 miles to the north. But Ricardo Muza, legal director of Pfizer’s Andean Region for the past seven years, has a way of finding common ground between the operations of those far-apart locations as well as in the other three countries in his jurisdiction, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.
“The most challenging aspect of this job can be the cultural differences,” the courtly lawyer tells Vanguard in early June. “Each country has its own. In Chile, much like in the United States, we’re very straightforward to questions asked. The other countries might dwell more on explanations that we have to provide.”
There are similarities, however, among the four countries’ legal systems, with Chile’s civil law-based methods setting a general example derived from Spanish law and other codes of 19th-century Continental Europe. That can enable Muza’s cause, but maybe no more so than what he refers to as his “soft skills” in dealing with people inside and outside the pharmaceutical heavyweight.
“One size doesn’t fit all,” Muza is wont to say. “Different people require different strategy, maybe analytical, maybe practical.”
That approach combined with Muza’s legal and business savvy seem to be paying dividends—for Pfizer as well as the millions of South Americans whose well-being has been improved by the company’s innovations in the life sciences.
A need fulfilled
Perhaps the most noteworthy example in recent years is Pfizer’s Center of Excellence in Precision Medicine, which opened in 2015 in Santiago, with the focus on better cancer diagnostics, personalized medicines and less-invasive treatments.
That had Muza in a critical role which included ironing out the legalities and regulatory compliance as well as securing commitments from strategic partners.
Pfizer committed $14 million to the project while the Chilean Economic Development Agency (Corfo) pledged another $7 million over the course of four years. Swiss-based Roche Pharmaceuticals came aboard with its VENTANA high-speed slide scanner that ensures thorough digital pathology. Another biotech specialist, U.S.-based Thermo Fisher Scientific, bolsters the facility’s capability with its Ion Personal Genome Machine that’s taking DNA sequencing to a higher level.
It’s a vital need that Pfizer and its partners are serving here, Muza proudly says. Historically, Latin America hasn’t been noted as a prime ground for pharmaceutical research and development, but that’s changing as Pfizer’s footprint continues to expand in the Southern Hemisphere. And lest anyone underestimate the necessity of the Center for Excellence, some 2,000 Chileans are diagnosed annually with lung cancer, and tobacco use is ingrained in the national culture.
He knows the score
For Muza, involvement in such endeavors seems the natural extension of a legal and business career that has had him at the forefront of major Chilean projects.
In his prior role as legal advisor to high-voltage system transmission supplier Transelec (2010-2011), his accomplishments included negotiating and closing studies on environmental impact with Arcadis Chile and MWH Americas for the Energía Austral SpA, a massive hydroelectric project. He also streamlined a deal that led to Transelec partnering with HidroAysen in construction an HVDC transmission line between Aysen and Santiago.
High-stakes, high-profile projects at the prominent Chilean law firms of Larrain y Asociados (2001-2005) and Honorato, Russi Eguiguren & Cía. (2005-2010) prepped Muza well for the in-house role in which he feels most at home.
At Larrain, he got to draft outlines, legal memoranda and implement contracts between national and foreign parties such as a co-branding agreement between TNT and Correos de Chile.
He joined the Honorato firm after enhancing his Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile law degree with a Master of Laws from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he focused on such subjects as antitrust, unfair competition, intellectual property and corporate governance. Being in Philadelphia, helped him realize the profound similarities between the United States and Chile, not limited to the cold weather, he cheerfully remarks.
His experiences have proved invaluable for Pfizer’s ambitious agenda in South America where Muza will keep busy integrating the acquisitions and strategic partners, managing the risk and using the opportunity to emphasize what he sees as bedrock values.
“Ethics are the cornerstone of the legal profession,” he says. “Although there are many jokes to the contrary, ethics are something you cannot disregard. I would not trust even an expert lawyer if I weren’t confident in his or her ethics.”
Of course, Muza has found many trustworthy men and women in his professional life, maybe especially so at Pfizer where he says the big picture transcends profit, as it should for any company in the health sciences. While he appreciated the experience and mentoring of the two law firms, Muza has really found a home in-house with his one client being his employer that’s as much a partner.
“Being an in-house counsel is a very gratifying experience, more so than being in a law firm,” he says. “What steered me in-house is my preference to study each situation in detail, analyze every aspect, take a position and see the results of your work. I’d rather do that than go case to case and client to client.”
All the while remembering that his prestigious position notwithstanding, he’s still a member of a team and can’t consider himself to be above the others. This being South America, he finds a soccer analogy in order.
“Maybe the goalkeeper doesn’t have the same media presence as the striker who scores the goals,” says Muza, who’s teaching the game to his 7-year-old son. “But it is useless for the team to have a good striker if the goalkeeper is not good. The team loses if the striker scores two goals while the goalkeeper lets in three.”
Muza has the opportunity to be striker and goalkeeper at Pfizer, as well as the coaching role that he might relish most.
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