LAWRENCE — Tom Wiggans, a 1975 graduate of the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy, will be honored April 29 with the school’s Distinguished Service Award. Wiggans is currently chairman and CEO of Pardes Biosciences of Carlsbad, California. He has spent most of his career leading companies in the pharmaceutical industry. The award honors individuals who have demonstrated “selfless and sustained service and leadership in advancement of the profession, their communities and the School of Pharmacy.”
“Tom Wiggans has established a long history of leading and later starting successful pharmaceutical companies,” said Ronald Ragan, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “He builds corporate cultures where people can thrive and enjoy their work, and his companies have made products that improve the health of people worldwide. We are proud to present Tom with our highest honor. He is most deserving.”
A native of Fredonia, where his grandfather and father ran the local pharmacy, Wiggans said he is a proud Jayhawk and thankful for his time at KU.
“It means everything to me,” he said. “KU and the KU School of Pharmacy was a great experience, and it prepared me for the rest of my life. For that, I couldn’t be more grateful.”
After graduating with his pharmacy degree, Wiggans earned an MBA from Southern Methodist University. He then began a career that has spanned nearly 50 years and has taken him around the globe. His first job was with Eli Lilly and Company, where he served in sales and marketing roles. Wiggans spent nearly 10 years at Serono Laboratories near Boston, rising from marketing director to president and general manager of U.S. pharmaceutical operations, before heading up the company’s European operations from London.
Connetics Corporation in Palo Alto, California, was Wiggans’ first experience with a startup company. As CEO and director, and later chairman, Wiggans grew the dermatology company to 400 employees and $200 million in annual sales. It was acquired by Stiefel Laboratories in 2006 to form the largest independent dermatology company in the world.
His international experience continued when he was named chairman and CEO of Peplin Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Brisbane, Australia. Wiggans then co-founded Dermira Inc., a biotech firm in Menlo Park, California. As CEO and director, Wiggans helped make Dermira an innovator of products for skin diseases and dermatology. Coming full circle, Dermira was acquired by his first employer in the business, Eli Lilly, for $1.1 billion in 2020.
Wiggans also helped found the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, the biotech industry’s leading advocacy association, with members in more than 30 countries. He also serves on the KU Endowment board of trustees and is a Mossberg Scholarship contributor in the School of Pharmacy.