Changing of the guard at Covance

CEO Chris Kuebler steps down; President Joe Herring to succeed.

By: Gwen McNamara
   WEST WINDSOR — Like the changing of the guard, a transition is in the works at Covance, one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive drug development services companies headquartered in Carnegie Center.
   Chris Kuebler, chairman and CEO, has announced his decision to retire at the end of 2005 and Joe Herring, Covance president and chief operating officer, has been selected to succeed him.
   Mr. Kuebler, who just completed his 10th year as CEO, started with the company in 1994 when it was still part of Corning Inc.’s pharmaceutical services division. He was named chairman of the board and CEO of Covance upon taking the company public in a spin out from Corning in 1997.
   "Covance has provided me with an outstanding opportunity to lead the largest dedicated drug development outsourcing company in the world," he said in an interview Thursday. "When I joined in 1994, Covance had 2,700 employees and $275 million in revenue. Today, Covance has more than 6,000 employees in 18 countries and we expect revenue to exceed $1 billion this year."
   With such success, it might seem premature for Mr. Kuebler, 50, to want to exit, but he says "the timing’s just right."
   "I’ve spent 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry," said the Philadelphia-area resident. "The company’s in the right spot — on top — I have a great successor and there are other things I’d like to do."
   An avid boater, diver and would-be marine biologist, Mr. Kuebler, who grew up in Florida, plans to be active with the Ocean Conservancy, an organization dedicated to the preservation of the ocean and its wildlife, get his captain’s license and serve on a number of biotech boards post retirement.
   "I’m going to become a fish-hugger in retirement," he joked. "Really just get to do all the things I couldn’t while attached to the company, but I won’t be disappearing fully."
   Mr. Kuebler will remain chairman of the board of directors until December 2005.
   "I’ll be around to help Joe out, but I doubt he’ll need it," Mr. Kuebler said.
   Mr. Herring joined Covance eight years ago and started out running the company’s North American Early Development business. After vastly improving that segment, he was tapped to run the early development business worldwide. Success there led to company-wide growth and a shot at chief operating officer. He was elected to Covance’s board of directors earlier this year.
   As CEO, his main goal is to continue the legacy of prosperity and growth laid down by Mr. Kuebler.
   "Research and development spending by pharmaceutical and biotech companies grows 10 percent a year," Mr. Herring said. "If we hold our position we’ll grow, but we’ve got more to work on."
   He plans to continue to build upon Covance’s mantra of people, processes and clients, while looking ahead to grab onto a larger share of the outsourcing market.
   "Today 22 percent of pharmaceutical and biotech companies are doing drug development outsourcing to companies like Covance," he said. "It’s not as mainstream as with other industries, like the automotive or IT industries, so we’d like to convince companies to push that to 34 or 35 percent. That growth potential is there."
   Outsourcing functions like laboratory testing and clinical testing helps pharmaceutical and biotech companies to grow without the expense of new staff or research facilities.
   To make Covance a more attractive outsourcing choice, the company plans to invest $140 million in 2005 in capital expenditures for facility improvements and scientific instruments, while creating between 500 and 600 new jobs, some in the Mercer County area, Mr. Herring said.
   The company has also created a faster system for generation and reporting of drug development data.
   "Drug development is all about the data," said Mr. Herring. "It’s not unusual for a pharmaceutical company to do testing in a lab, finish the project and wait months before they see the data.
   "We’ve improved that, so that we can get a pharmaceutical sponsor anywhere on the globe, data in 24 hours or less using a secure Web site," he continued. "We want companies to feel like we’re the lab next door or down the hall, available 24/7."
   Covance’s role in the "miracle of bringing medicine to market" will keep it successful in the future, said Mr. Herring, a Montgomery resident. A cancer survivor himself, Mr. Herring, a Louisiana native, is proud to be a part of Covance.
   "It’s exciting to be in this industry and it’s easy to attract and keep employees if they can work for a good company, be well paid and make a difference," he said.
   For more information on Covance visit