Forging weapons to fight disease



Richard M. Ivey

Worldwide vice president of research and development

BD Diagnostics (a segment of Becton, Dickinson and Co.), Sparks

Salary --$200,000

Age --49

Years on the job --23

How he got started --Ivey holds a bachelor's degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a master's from George Washington University. An engineer by training, Ivey first worked in the nuclear power industry and later for a large plastics manufacturing firm. He started at BD as a manufacturing engineer, then went on to work as a design engineer and in program management before going into management of research and development.

Typical day --He works 50 to 55 hours a week, leading the research and development team of about 200 people. The majority of his time is spent monitoring progress on product development, hiring technical talent, doing research and designing products. He works with engineers and scientists as often as possible. "I do get my hands dirty a lot, trying to separate good technology from not so good technology. I'm accountable at the end of the day for that." Ivey is also on the road about 25 percent of the time developing relationships and brokering technology deals.

Company's area of focus --Infectious disease.

How R&D works --Ivey says it's often referred to as "connect and develop" instead of "research and develop" because a lot of the new research is now done out of small laboratories at universities and startup companies.

What people don't know about R&D --"It's a lot of fun. It's rewarding. You get to learn about medical care and human health, while working in science and making a difference."

Product development --Ivey says they typically launch one major product a year. The BD Viper System, an automated device used to detect sexually transmitted diseases, is a recent product designed at the Sparks facility.

The good --"Watching our teams succeed in developing great products that make a difference in the health care setting."

The bad --"It's science and we are inventing new things. There is a lot of uncertainty and risk. That's what gives me the gray hair. It's exciting, but at the same time there is a certain amount of risk."

Philosophy on the job --"Build good teams and let people create and be innovators."

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