Rutgers alumnus named to magazine's 'Power 100' list
Rutgers alumnus Bob Oliver of the Class of 1981 was named to Ebony Magazine’s 2016 Power 100, an annual list of the world’s 100 most influential and inspiring members in the black community.
Oliver is the president and CEO of Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. (OAPI). He was awarded alongside honorees including musician John Legend and gymnast Simone Biles.
Last night, Oliver attended the annual gala for Ebony Magazine in Los Angeles.
Honorees were recognized in 10 categories, including “First in Line,” which recognized pioneering individuals in their respective industries, “Players,” which recognized artists and “Elevate,” which recognized ambassadors who are committed to uplifting others, according to Ebony.
Oliver was honored as an “Elevate” candidate, for successfully leading his pharmaceutical company in addressing challenges in researching neuroscience and mental health.
Specifically, he was "credited with the success of the antipsychotic drug Abilify, one of the top-selling pharmaceuticals in the United States today,” according to Ebony’s description of Oliver.
“As president and CEO, I manage OAPI’s big picture and am responsible for U.S. business operations,” Oliver said in an email. “I’m involved in every sector of OAPI, as well as managing our alliance relationships within the pharmaceutical and technology industries.”
Oliver, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from Rutgers, continued his education at St. Joseph’s University. He received a Master of Business Administration degree.
“I worked through a variety of sales, marketing and general management positions at a number of well-known pharmaceutical companies until I joined OAPI in 2010 after more than 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry,” he said.
OAPI is part of the Otsuka Group, a Japanese pharmaceutical company. OAPI oversees commercial activities in the U.S. and has been introducing products relating neuroscience, oncology and cardio-renal since 1989, according to the company's website.
OAPI’s initiative with neuroscience and mental health research, for which Oliver was honored, faced many difficulties because of the stigma associated with the mental health space, Oliver said.
The negative perception of mental illnesses provides difficulties for both pharmaceutical companies and patients alike, and thus, pharmaceutical companies may have been hesitant to focus on mental health conditions, he said.
For many years the industry largely abandoned drug development for mental illnesses, leading to a near standstill of drug discovery for treating psychiatric disorders in 2012, according to a Science Translational Magazine commentary.
The challenge of new clinically relevant targets, coupled with the escalating placebo response in certain conditions like major depressive disorder (MDD) and schizophrenia led to a large industry-wide exodus from neuroscience research, Oliver said.
“Our perspective is that mental health operatives should take a page from the cancer playbook, as far as treatment research and development is concerned,” he said.
As mental health conditions are some of the most misunderstood and maligned in healthcare, Oliver said he is proud to lead an organization continuing to persevere in addressing the significant and pervasive unmet needs of patients in this space.
In a given year, one in five adult Americans experience mental illness, reported the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
In the future, Oliver said he looks to develop and offer sustainable solutions in mental health that lie far beyond a pill.
In addition, he said the company will focus research and development in burgeoning areas of interest, such as digital medicine.
“At OAPI, we believe in doing our part to help create a healthier world, and we won’t stop until we do,” Oliver said. "I’m passionate about education. Healthcare and digital medicine are areas that will continue to grow and where the next generation of leaders are greatly needed.”
Minna Kim is an Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy first-year student. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.