“Studying the master’s degree in Zaragoza was indeed a turning point in my career” – ZLOG Alumni Success Story

Alumni Success Story: Bruna Pontes de Faria, ZLOG Alumni 2013 and Associate Director, Supply Chain Management Vaccines EMEA Lead at MSD. See profile on Linkedin


Quite recently, in Sep 2020, you join MSD team as Associate Director, Supply Chain Management Vaccines EMEA Lead, a very well-known biopharmaceutical company with more than 125 years of history that has been bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases to save and improve lives. Congratulations! What does this position involve?

MSD has a history of developing vaccines and making certain diseases a thing of the past continues to be our focus. Vaccines planning motivates me due to the impact to lives, and the mesmerizing complexity of our supply chain – we produce very large volumes, through sensitive biological processes that have a lead time of 12 to 48 months, and must respond to quite volatile demand (outbreaks, national immunization programs, different virus strains). MSD distributed ~190M doses around the world in 2019, and our goal is to reach 1B customers in the next years.

The company is investing heavily in our processes, systems, people and data. I am happy to be part of this journey and lead the Supply Planning team based in Lucerne. We are responsible for maintaining supply to markets, meeting inventory targets, and making the most efficient use of site resources for manufacturing.

How MSD is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?

MSD has been fully committed to developing an effective response to the COVID-19. There are development efforts ongoing for COVID-19 vaccines and an oral antiviral candidate, in collaboration with other companies. We expect results from clinical trials by next year.

MSD aims for broad, timely, affordable, and equitable global access for our potential COVID-19 medicines and vaccines. We recognize that initial demand may exceed supply and will require a carefully considered approach. To this effect MSD is focusing on the largest nodes of access.

Coronavirus vaccine distribution plan has become a global logistics challenge. In your view, which are the urgent steps nations must take now to succeed?

Strong collaboration between companies and governments has allowed unprecedented speed in the development of vaccines, while maintaining the standards for vaccine quality, safety and efficacy. In the next phase, coordination between countries will be crucial. The European Commission has been active and urged Nations to prepare the vaccination strategy.

It is important to ensure that vaccination services have enough resources to reach the target population and dispense the vaccines. Most probably, there will be several types of vaccines available, with different packaging and sizes. Some of the vaccines the vaccines must be kept at very low temperatures, and considerable effort will be required to setup planes, trucks and hospitals to manage these huge cold chain volumes.

In addition, until now, obtaining real-time status of the disease, patients and the spread of cases around the world has proven difficult. As we move forward, good demand forecasting, real-time visibility into the logistics network and inventories will also become key.

Finally, the success of the vaccination campaign will also depend on the uptake by the population. Public confidence must be built with clear, timely and proactive communication.

Most people would be surprised to learn that you started your career working in the financial sector. However, 2012 was a turning point in your life when you decided to enroll in the MIT Zaragoza Master of Engineering in Logistics and Supply Chain Management at ZLC.

Did the master’s degree help you discover your true passion?

My first role in supply chain, in 2008, was in the area of channel distribution of electronics to the European market. I enjoyed making connections with manufacturers, customers and with the different departments of the company. There were always new interesting things to learn. In 2012, I took the decision to pursue the master’s degree in MIT Zaragoza, and this was indeed a turning point in my career. It provided me a rich toolset with which I could expand my development both technically and as a leader. Supply chain allows you to understand the big picture, and I love that.

The program has certainly made its indelible mark on your own career. Right after graduation, you joined the pharmaceutical company ROCHE in Switzerland, one of the top destinations among ZLC graduates. What have you gained in terms of professional experience and personal growth?

I was extremely lucky to join the Roche team. Roche is a great growing company and allowed me to develop myself at personal and professional level. Through the years, I had the opportunity to work in different supply chain roles, in operations and global transformation. I will always cherish the friendships and work relationships built during that time.

Now, I am happy to expand my horizons in another top Pharma company, MSD, having the opportunity to work in vaccines.

Thank you, Bruna! We wish you the best in this new challenge at MSD.