Coffee Break: Getting to know Tim Walbert, chairman, president and CEO of Horizon Therapeutics

  • Photo courtesy of Horizon TherapeuticsTim Walbert speaks with employees of Horizon Therapeutics.

    Photo courtesy of Horizon TherapeuticsTim Walbert speaks with employees of Horizon Therapeutics.

  • Photo courtesy of Horizon TherapeuticsTim Walbert is the chairman, president and CEO of Horizon Therapeutics.

    Photo courtesy of Horizon TherapeuticsTim Walbert is the chairman, president and CEO of Horizon Therapeutics.

Updated 8/15/2022 12:23 PM

Q: Describe your company.

A: Horizon is a global biotechnology company dedicated to delivering breakthrough medicines to those who are living with rare, autoimmune and severe inflammatory diseases. At Horizon, we uniquely understand the patient journey. Many of us at Horizon know a patient, are a patient ourselves or have been deeply moved to action by a patient's story. This awareness fuels every decision we make and shapes who we are, from the medicines we develop to the communities we support.


Horizon has more than 2,000 employees and presence in 16 locations worldwide, including regional hubs in Brazil, Japan and Switzerland. Our portfolio includes 12 marketed medicines, more than 20 pipeline programs, and we have clinical trials ongoing in more than 30 countries.

Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

A: Yes, Horizon has open positions throughout the company. Additionally, in January we announced we are building a new, 192,000-square-foot facility in Rockville, Maryland. When complete, this state-of-the-art facility will support more than 200 of our scientists and serve as the company's primary East Coast hub for research and development (R&D) and technical operations.

Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie startup executive, what would it be?

A: You need to have a mindset of drive, passion and risk tolerance. In a larger biotechnology/pharmaceutical company if a medicine fails you move onto a different medicine. But in a startup, you're taking a risk that impacts your family and your future, so you need to believe that you can make a difference and be willing to take that risk.

Q: Do you have a business mantra?

A: At Horizon, I lead by the mantra, "Do the right thing."

We started Horizon Therapeutics in 2008 with one goal: bring breakthrough solutions -- and hope -- to people living with challenging diseases. We continue to deliver on that promise. And, while our path to success has been filled with change at every turn, one thing has remained the same -- and that's our guiding principle: Do the right thing.

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Doing the right thing is infused in every facet of our work -- how we advocate for patients, how we work with health care providers, how we treat each other, how we make decisions. Above all, doing the right thing is our north star and at the very core of who we are.

Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?

A: I am both a patient and a caregiver. I have a rare disease and an autoimmune disease, and my son and I live with the same rare disease. Horizon's founding is based on a deep understanding of the daily challenges those living with a rare disease face. I lead with compassion while fostering a work environment that allows every employee -- some of whom live with a rare disease or serve as a caregiver to a loved one -- to thrive.

Q: Was there a moment in your career that didn't go as you had planned? What lesson did you learn from it?

A: There was a time early in my biopharma sales career when I was not given a promotion I was hoping for. At the time, I chose to leave the company rather than take the feedback and improve. I realized shortly after taking my new job at a new company that I was better off in my previous company.

So I took the feedback, improved on my skills and went back to my original company in an even higher position than I would have gotten with the promotion. Sometimes the grass isn't always greener and sometimes it is hard to take feedback, but it always pays off to learn from what you hear.


Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I spend time with my family, especially as my kids have gotten older and are closer to adulthood.

Q: What book is on your nightstand?

A: "The Match" by Mark Frost.

Q: What keeps you up at night?

A: As the CEO of a growing company, two questions keep me up at night: 1. How do we continue to grow as an enterprise and develop our talent while maintaining our culture? 2. How do we continue to keep people motivated?

Q: If you were not doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?

A: I would be a landscape architect. I was very involved in the landscaping at our new U.S. headquarters -- from tree and flower planting to designing the green roof.

Q: What was your first paying job?

A: I had a paper route near Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Q: Two people to follow on Twitter and why. (Besides your company)

A: Padraig Harrington because he is motivational and community focused -- and he is a Horizon ambassador -- and Adam Fein who provides unvarnished commentary on the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry.

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