First Person | Paul Herrling

Courtesy of Ruder Finn

When Paul Herrling didn't do his homework at his Swiss boarding school, the facility's science-loving director devised unusual punishments. The then-teenaged Herrling, now Novartis' head of corporate research, had to catalog the man's collection of crickets, which the director had recovered from ice, ages old, on a nearby Italian mountain. "He was studying glacial repopulation," says Herrling.

The discipline, and the fervor of the director's science lectures, opened Herrling's eyes to biology. "With every lesson, I was learning absolutely astonishing stuff," he explains.

Herrling was hired in 1975 when the Swiss government, he says, was telling drug houses to hire their own instead of the better-trained English scientists. Multilingual and well traveled, Herrling visits Singapore six times a year, where he directs the newly established Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases. He spent his youth in Alexandria, Egypt.

He makes the most...

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