EXCLUSIVE: Avoiding prescriptive security

Vaccine vials - Dean Geribo discusses security at Moderna

Share this content

Dean Geribo, Vice President, Global Security at Moderna delves into biopharmaceutical industry security and the right mindset to ensure success.

“I have been in pharmaceutical security since 2007,” Geribo began. “I started at Novartis in Executive Protection and eventually moved across a number of franchises, into the leadership team and eventually joined Alcon where I was the Chief Security Officer (CSO).”

Geribo then moved to Moderna in August of 2020, just as the company was ramping up its COVID-19 vaccine production, ahead of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization.

“I was the first security hire and first security executive at Moderna,” Geribo revealed. “I was brought in to build the function around security and ensure the protection of the IP and the product here within our campus.”

Having joined the company at such a crucial time, Geribo’s responsibilities remain widespread, including working with contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) and other partners to develop a framework of what security looks like at Moderna. Since that point, he’s brought in 14 people into the department and under his remit, they work within six different functions: executive protection; threat management; brand protection supply chain security; physical integrity security; global intelligence; and business continuity, while he co-leads the investigative function.

Being a leader

One of the achievements that Geribo is proudest of is the talent that he has been able to bring into the company.

“I’ve brought in phenomenal people and this team is my favorite group that I’ve had a chance to work with in pharma,” he said. “Even though very few of them actually came from pharmaceutical backgrounds, that was purposeful; Moderna prides itself on being a tech company with a pharmaceutical product.”

In terms of his own values and the way he presents himself as a leader, Geribo highlighted that authorship and authenticity are his key tenets.

“I want people to come in and take the time to understand what Moderna is and what our product is,” said Geribo. “For each one of those six segments, I hold them accountable to creating something that’s meaningful; it has to be their vision. Then, we look at stakeholder management and stay ahead of the power curve. You have to be true to yourself, but you have to be true to the business as you move from authorship to authenticity.”

Maintaining cohesion

Thinking about how to ensure harmony across such a large business, Geribo highlighted that dynamic range is vital.

“You have to be able to stretch and strain and we find ourselves on that leading edge of what good looks like. Another key skill is active listening – you must have a clear head,” he explained.

This perspective is why Geribo believes that the patient must come first in the minds of the team, before security. It is therefore important for those he leads to understand the company and where its commercial side is heading.

“We don’t need security practitioners – that’s one dimensional,” said Geribo. “You need business experts with a security background so that they can learn the segment and what the competition is doing to create something that’s bespoke, but that also has the ability to scale and evolve. That’s what success looks like.”

Pharmaceutical security

According to Geribo, the number one challenge he faces in his role is time. Having joined the company at such a pivotal moment, he explained that he has seen incredible growth and how Moderna became a global name essentially overnight, selling billions of doses.

“That in and of itself is a magnificent feat of security. It’s like driving a racecar while building the engine. We have to examine product behavior and look at business resilience and continuity risks.”

He reiterated his earlier sentiments about dynamic range, authorship and authenticity; to mitigate the limitation of time, Geribo said that he empowers his team by ensuring that they can reflect on what they need to do to be successful.

Advice for the industry

Over the pandemic, there were a wide number of challenges, Geribo said, but Moderna was able to evolve.

“We have to be seen as a partner to the business. If we can educate leadership on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, as well as be reflective by taking on feedback, that will allow us to continue to have a spot at the table,” he said.

“I think too often security can get boiled down in an organization, to the point where it lacks the ability to be a change agent or an adopter of progress. It’s often seen as a cost center. At Moderna, we’ve emerged from out of that mindset and to lead an organization like this, you have to understand the verticals and the impact that security can have to build.”

Evolution of corporate security

Geribo predicts that in the future, one of two outcomes for corporate security will be seen. It will either decrease because it is a cost center and others do not understand the untapped value that it brings to a business, or it will be increased as something to help a business and drive it forwards through intelligence.

One aspect that Geribo highlighted as having been successful and that he wants to see more of is collaboration. How noted that during the pandemic, Operation Warp Speed brought organizations together to advance the development of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

“That was a fantastic mechanism that forced businesses to partner and examine how we could protect data,” said Geribo. “I think that’s an amazing proposition that security practitioners need to lean into.”

Geribo emphasized that constantly thinking of corporate security as a cost center will never provide the opportunity for it to evolve or be instrumental in protecting pharmaceutical products or any other IP.

“If you examine and redefine what success looks like and take the time to understand what those new KPIs are, organizations would then see this not as a cost, but an insurance policy to protect the next generation of that business,” said Geribo.

Broadening horizons

Further to his role at Moderna in corporate security, Geribo has also joined several advisory boards. The first board he joined was on Base Operations, which approached him two years ago. Since then, he’s had the opportunity to join EP2, HiveWatch and RaySecur.

“I didn’t want to be a part of something for name recognition – Moderna already has a phenomenal name,” he said. “However, I’ve had the privilege to join these organizations as each one of them in their segment is really interesting in the way in which they’re approaching protection, whether it’s micro intelligence or a new apparatus for mail security or other solutions.”

Geribo revealed that what appealed to him was to be instrumental in how these innovative technologies – for potentially unmet challenges – moved forwards and help them to become market leaders.

“They’re all small, agile organizations and they allow me to have a voice within them,” Geribo added. “It allows me to extend my reach into areas I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do so.”

In his final thoughts, Geribo highlighted another external project that he is talking part in, to create a CSO Academy. He explained that he is developing a training program to enable others to have the right mindset and understand what success means.

“I think there’s a huge gap in this career field, especially when you get to the to the Vice President or Executive Director level. There’s a lot of trial and error, which is good for companies that have tolerance, but it can be career-limiting. Therefore, we need to teach that success means learning and then applying your background to that.”

This article was originally published in the May edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox