Board of Directors
Mr. Higgins became chairman of the board of directors upon the close of the merger with Zyla Life Sciences in May 2020. He previously served as president and chief executive officer (CEO) and director starting in March 2017. He has over 35 years of pharmaceutical and healthcare industry experience. Previously, he served as a senior advisor to Blackstone Healthcare Partners, the dedicated healthcare team of The Blackstone Group, where he focused on product-based healthcare acquisitions. Prior to that, Mr. Higgins served as chairman of the board of management of Bayer HealthCare AG from January 2006 to May 2010 and chairman of the Bayer HealthCare Executive Committee from July 2004 to May 2010. Prior to joining Bayer HealthCare in 2004, Mr. Higgins served as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Enzon Pharmaceuticals, Inc. from 2001 to 2004. Prior to joining Enzon Pharmaceuticals, Mr. Higgins spent 14 years with Abbott Laboratories, including serving as president of the Pharmaceutical Products Division from 1998 to 2001. He is a past member of the board of directors of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), of the Council of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) and President of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Mr. Higgins serves on the boards of Zimmer Biomet, a publicly held medical device company, Nuvelution, and EcoLab, a publicly held water, hygiene and energy technologies and services company. Mr. Higgins received a B.S. in biochemistry from Strathclyde University, Scotland.
Mr. McKee has served as director of Assertio since March 2017. He served as chief operating officer and chief financial officer (CFO) at EKR Therapeutics, Inc., a privately held specialty pharmaceutical company from 2010 until EKR was sold to Cornerstone Therapeutics Inc. in 2012. Until March 2010, Mr. McKee served as the executive vice president and CFO of Barr Pharmaceuticals, LLC, a subsidiary of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Limited, a generic pharmaceutical company, and the successor entity to Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a publicly traded specialty pharmaceutical company, which was acquired by Teva. Mr. McKee was also executive vice president and CFO of Barr prior to its acquisition by Teva, after having served in positions of increasing responsibility at Barr until its acquisition. Prior to joining Barr, Mr. McKee served as director of International Operations and vice president of finance at Absolute Entertainment, Inc., a private developer and marketer of entertainment software. Mr. McKee previously worked at Gramkow & Carnevale, CPAs and Deloitte & Touche. Mr. McKee serves on the boards of Agile Therapeutics, Inc., a publicly held specialty biopharmaceutical company, Cerulean, Inc., a publicly held clinical-stage, oncology-focused company and Synthetic Genomics Inc., a privately held synthetic biology company. Mr. McKee received a B.A. in business from the University of Notre Dame.
Mr. Smith joined Assertio as president, chief executive officer (CEO) and director in May 2020. He previously served as president, CEO and a member of the board of directors of Zyla Life Sciences from October 2019 through the merger with Assertio. With more than 25 years of pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology leadership, he has a long track record of building companies and achieving commercial and business development excellence while maintaining a focus on patient access to differentiated products. Before joining Zyla, from 2017 through February 2019, Mr. Smith, served as CEO and a director of Iroko Pharmaceuticals Inc., a privately-owned pharmaceutical company, from which the Company purchased five products in early 2019. During the period October 2014 through June 2015, Mr. Smith served as the chief commercial officer of Ophthotech Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing novel therapeutics to treat ophthalmic diseases. In addition, he has held a variety of senior commercial and marketing roles at organizations including Horizon Therapeutics plc, a public biopharmaceutical company focused on rare and rheumatic diseases, and Abbott, a public healthcare products company. Mr. Smith serves as a director for BVI, a TPG Ophthalmology company and for Vault Nano, a UCLA Biotech in Immuno-Oncology and Virology. Mr. Smith received his bachelor’s degree from Norwich University.
Mr. Tyree has served as a director of Assertio since October 2016. Mr. Tyree is the co-founder and managing partner of Tyree & D’Angelo Partners, a private equity investment firm. Prior to founding Tyree & D’Angelo Partners in 2010, Mr. Tyree was president, Abbott Biotech Ventures, a subsidiary of Abbott Laboratories focused on investments in early-stage pharmaceuticals and biologics. Before that Mr. Tyree held numerous executive positions at Abbott including corporate vice president pharmaceutical and nutritional products group business development, senior vice president global nutrition and executive vice president global pharmaceuticals. Prior to rejoining Abbott in 1997, Mr. Tyree was the president of SUGEN, Inc. and held management positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer and Abbott. Mr. Tyree serves as a director of Innoviva, Inc. and Chemocentryx. Mr. Tyree received B.S. degrees in psychology and forensic studies and a M.B.A. from Indiana University.
Dr. Wheadon has served as a director of Assertio since September 2019. Dr. Wheadon is a former senior executive of AstraZeneca plc, having recently retired as senior vice president (SVP), global regulatory affairs, patient safety and quality assurance. Dr. Wheadon has held many leadership roles in the healthcare sector, including: executive vice president, research and advocacy at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs at PhRMA; SVP of global pharmaceutical regulatory and medical sciences at Abbott Laboratories; SVP of U.S. regulatory affairs at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals; vice president and director CNS/GI Clinical Research at SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals; and clinical research physician at Eli Lilly and Company. Dr. Wheadon has been integral to the successful development and approval of several important drugs for central nervous system diseases, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders and diseases in other therapeutic areas. Dr. Wheadon holds a M.D. from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an A.B. in Biology from Harvard University. He completed his postdoctoral training in Psychiatry at Tufts/New England Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.
Ms. Mason has served as a director of Assertio since February 2019. Ms. Mason is a former senior executive of Abbott Laboratories, having recently retired as executive vice president (EVP) of Abbott Nutrition. Ms. Mason also served as EVP, global commercial Operations at Abbott and senior vice president of Abbott Diabetes Care. Ms. Mason joined Abbott in 1990 and held positions in Abbott’s U.S. pharmaceutical business, including oversight of Abbott’s specialty pharmaceuticals, its diabetes/metabolics and oncology franchises, and managed health care. Ms. Mason also served as vice president (VP), international marketing, and VP, Latin American operations, in Abbott’s international pharmaceutical business. Prior to joining Abbott, Ms. Mason worked for Quaker Oats, FMC Corporation, and Commonwealth Edison. Ms. Mason holds a B.S.E. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Michigan and a M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.
Ms. Smiley became a director of Assertio when the merger with Zyla closed in May 2020. Ms. Smiley had served as a member of the Zyla board of directors since April 2017. She has approximately three decades of commercialization and general management experience in the biopharmaceutical industry in both public and private companies. Since 2011, Ms. Smiley has served as president and CEO at VMS BioMarketing, a leading provider of patient and healthcare provider support. Within her first year as CEO of VMS BioMarketing, she spun-off commoditized business units and focused the company solely on impacting patient adherence and outcomes. During her tenure as CEO, she has established VMS as the leading provider and growth leader of clinical nurse educator patient support solutions. Ms. Smiley provides strategic consulting to VMS’ biopharma clients on pre- and post-commercialization strategies across a broad range of therapeutic areas including immunology, oncology, endocrinology, neuroscience and rare diseases. Prior to joining VMS BioMarketing in 2008, Ms. Smiley spent 18 years at Eli Lilly and Company in various positions of increasing responsibility in finance, business development, corporate affairs, brand management and business unit leadership roles. Among other programs, she was the marketing leader for the launch of Humalog® Mix75/25™, she led sales and marketing for Humatrope®, she was responsible for the development and launch of Forteo® and she was the business unit leader of Lilly’s women’s health business. Earlier in her career, Ms. Smiley worked as a management consultant for Putnam Associates, where she led consulting teams and advised brands in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and managed healthcare fields on product launches and access strategies. She is a regular speaker and panel member on patient adherence, patient services and women’s leadership topics at biopharma industry conferences. Ms. Smiley serves on the board of numerous nonprofit organizations including: Indiana Alzheimer’s Association, Summer Stock, Indiana Salvation Army and the Lung Force Women’s Cabinet. She received a gubernatorial appointment to the Indiana Commission for Women. In addition to Zyla, she is on the board of AppianRx, a privately held, technology-based specialty pharmacy and patient support solutions company. Ms. Smiley earned her BA in economics from DePauw University where she was an Honors Management Fellow.
Mr. Staple has served as a director of Assertio since November 2003. Since March 2008, Mr. Staple has served as chief executive officer (CEO) and director of Corium International, Inc., a publicly held biopharmaceutical company. From 2002 to March 2008 he served as director, and from 2002 to November 2007 as chief executive officer of BioSeek, Inc., a privately held drug discovery company. From 1994 to 2002, Mr. Staple was a member of the senior executive team at ALZA Corporation, where he was most recently executive vice president, chief administrative officer and general counsel. Prior to joining ALZA, Mr. Staple held the position of vice president, associate general counsel for biopharmaceutical company Chiron Corporation. Mr. Staple previously served as vice president, associate general counsel for Cetus Corporation, a biotechnology company. Mr. Staple received a J.D. degree from Stanford Law School and a B.A. degree from Stanford University.
Mr. Walbert became the lead independent director of the Assertio board when the merger closed with Zyla in May 2020. Mr. Walbert had been a member of the Zyla board since March 2014 and served as the chairman from June 2015 through May 2020. Mr. Walbert has been the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Horizon Pharma since June 2008 and has been the chairman of the Horizon board since 2010. Previously, he served as president, CEO, and director of IDM Pharma, Inc., a public biopharmaceutical company which was acquired by Takeda America Holdings, Inc., or Takeda, in June 2009. Prior to IDM, Mr. Walbert served as executive vice president, commercial operations, at NeoPharm, Inc., a public biopharmaceutical company. From 2001 to 2005, Mr. Walbert served as divisional vice president and general manager, immunology, where he led the global development and launch of the multi-indication biologic HUMIRA, which had almost $20 billion in 2018 sales and divisional vice president, global cardiovascular strategy, at Abbott, now AbbVie. From 1998 to 2001, Mr. Walbert served as director, CELEBREX North America, and arthritis team leader, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Canada at G.D. Searle & Company. From 1991 to 1998, Mr. Walbert also held sales and marketing roles with increasing responsibility at G.D. Searle, Merck & Co., Inc., and Wyeth. Mr. Walbert received his B.A. in business from Muhlenberg College. In addition to the Zyla board of directors, Mr. Walbert serves on the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization (iBIO), World Business Chicago and Greater Chicago Arthritis Foundation boards. He is a member of the Illinois Innovation Council, the National Organization of Rare Disease (NORD) Advisory Board and serves on the Board of Trustees of Muhlenberg College.