Mercer alumna works for biopharmaceutical company that ‘changes lives’ 

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A professional woman with shoulder-length blonde hair and glasses is smiling at the camera. She is wearing a navy blue pinstripe blazer over a pink top and has her arms crossed.
Patricia Fritz

Patty Fritz fell in love with the field of research and development as a member of the military. Those experiences opened the door for her work with pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies, and her continued education at Mercer University further impacted the trajectory of her career.

Today, she is the vice president of U.S. Corporate Affairs for UCB, a global biopharmaceutical company dedicated to scientific advancement to help people living with severe diseases. In March, Fritz was named one of the “The Top Women Leaders of Georgia for 2024” by the organization Women We Admire.

Fritz, who holds a diploma in nursing and a bachelor’s degree in management and technology, began her career as a hospital nurse working mainly in the intensive care unit and emergency room. 

“While I enjoyed it, I knew that I really wanted to do more, learn more and have a greater impact. I also had this strong interest in research. Even working in the hospital, I was drawn to journal articles and research studies,” she said. 

She learned that she could gain exposure to research through the military, so she joined and was stationed at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. There, she developed a passion for research and development work while doing everything from formulation development for new drugs to preclinical and clinical research. She was also introduced to the regulatory approval processes that allow patients to access new medicines and treatments. 

After having her second child, she moved into the private industry and took on a variety of roles at two small pharmaceutical companies in the Washington, D.C., area. She was recruited as the regulatory leader for a Richmond, Virginia, company, which was bought by UCB one month after her arrival. She wasn’t sure what the future held for her amid this transition, but she’s now worked for the company for 30 years. 

As she was leading U.S. regulatory affairs at UCB’s American headquarters in Atlanta in 2000, she was also enrolled in a master’s degree program at an Atlanta university. However, a couple semesters into her studies, the program stopped offering evening classes.

“I had a bit of a dilemma. I loved my job and felt I was on the right track professionally and looked for alternatives, and Mercer was one of those alternatives,” Fritz said. “Mercer had the flexibility I needed not only for work but to balance my family. It fit what I was looking for.”

In 2003, Fritz completed her Master of Science in health care administration with a concentration in health policy from Mercer’s School of Business. She said the program exposed her to stakeholder perspectives and showed her the evolution of health care. 

“(That) really sparked my passion for public policy,” she said. “It was really sort of an inflection point. I made the right decision when I went to Mercer, and when I look back, it really has had quite an impact on my professional trajectory but also my personal interests as well.”

Two business women talk, while several men stand around them.
UCB’s CEO Jean-Christophe Tellier, center, introduces Princess Astrid of Belgium, left, to UCB’s Head of U.S. Corporate Affairs Patty Fritz. Photo by PWP Studio Corporate Event Photographers

Since then, Fritz has served in leadership roles in global regulatory affairs, operational excellence, government affairs and health policy at UCB. In her current role, which she took on about six years ago, she leads a team that’s responsible for public policy, government relations, advocacy, communications, public affairs, and efforts related to sustainability and health equity. 

UCB is a “global organization with a large footprint in the U.S.,” Fritz said. The company is based in Belgium and has a presence in nearly 40 countries. In the United States, it has development hubs in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Cambridge, Massachusetts; a small lab in Washington state; a campus in California; and an office in Washington, D.C. While Fritz works in UCB’s Atlanta office, she also spends a lot of time in D.C.

Fritz said the company’s commitment to people has kept her there for the past three decades.

“There are a lot of companies that say they put patients first and people first, but I feel at UCB, every decision that we make is centered around what is the impact of this decision on people living with severe disease,” she said. “I can’t imagine a better job than working somewhere where you’re surrounded by people that work tirelessly to create solutions that transform lives. All of that gives me a tremendous amount of pride every day and gets me excited to get up and go to work.”

Fritz said it’s rewarding to see the impact of the innovations firsthand and to hear from patients and their families. She led a team that navigated the regulatory process for UCB’s first antiepileptic drug that was approved in 1999, which she called one of her proudest achievements. 

She recalled talking to a mother whose daughter had drug-resistant epilepsy and experienced over 100 seizures a day. The mother detailed the extensive treatments and therapies they had tried and the changes her family had made to care for the child. Her daughter stopped having seizures after she started taking the new medicine. 

“It was then that I realized that what we do is more than innovating medicine. What we do changes lives. It was then that I knew I was doing the right thing,” Fritz said. 

Fritz is also proud to have initiated UCB’s Women in Leadership network — which provides coaching, support and mentorship — in partnership with another female leader within the organization and to have watched the network grow and flourish.

In addition, she was involved in opening the Washington, D.C., office, a huge milestone for UCB, and completing her master’s degree while raising three kids and working full time was no small feat. 

Going forward, Fritz hopes that UCB never loses sight of what she calls its “north star” — a commitment to being patient and people centric. On a personal level, she wants to continue to learn, challenge herself and never forget that people are “our greatest asset.”

 

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