Bausch + Lomb CEO Brent Saunders has eye on innovation

November 1, 2011 //

Brent Saunders, MBA, LAW ’96, CEO of Bausch + Lomb, has traveled to at least 60 countries in the past decade, yet the leader of the world’s largest independent eye-care company hardly gets a chance to look around.

“Except for one trip, I don’t think I’ve taken time to do any sightseeing,” Saunders said, recalling the lone exception – his second trip to China – when he had an extra day to squeeze in a “week’s worth of activities.”

Such is life for Saunders, who oversees a company that does business in 100 countries and has more than 10,000 employees worldwide. Appointed CEO in March 2010, Saunders said his job is to ensure as many ideas as possible result in tangible innovations.

To that end, Saunders recast research and development as “development and research,” which, while acknowledging research is essential, emphasizes development as the work that transforms ideas into products that help people see and live better.

Although Bausch + Lomb is best known for eye-care products, the 158-year-old company has two other business units: surgical and pharmaceuticals. With Saunders at the helm, the company has rejuvenated its product pipeline across all units, with projects that include a new laser technology for cataract surgery, new contact lens solution and materials, and a novel anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical agent.

In addition to developing potentially game-changing products, Saunders also emphasizes that “results, in and of themselves, are not enough.”

“It’s how we achieve the results that is going to make us different – or better – than our competitors,” said Saunders, who at age 41 is among the nation’s youngest CEOs.

Before Saunders joined Bausch + Lomb, he served as a senior executive with Schering-Plough, a partner and head of compliance business advisory at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and chief risk officer at Coventry Health Care. And before that, he attended the Fox School at night, doubling up on classes as he practiced law.

“I really learned how to prioritize my time and do things efficiently and effectively,” said Saunders, whose grandfather and brother also have Temple degrees. “It’s probably the best learning I gained from my time at Temple.”