Indrani Franchini has spent her career helping major companies transform their compliance programs. In 2017, she brought that expertise to Alexion Pharmaceuticals as it waded through an overhaul, a new plan for compliance, and regulatory pressures. She’s now the executive vice president, chief legal officer, and corporate secretary at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.
“I believe chief legal officers and chief compliance officers are much more than just lawyers in an organization. They drive values and they drive how we do our work,” Franchini says. “At Alexion, I was able to impact the how, making sure that we were doing our work with integrity. It was much more than being a lawyer and just managing risks. It was about shaping the way we want to show up and how we want to be seen by our stakeholders.”
When AstraZeneca acquired Alexion, Franchini saw an opportunity to make a similar impact at Alnylam. It checked all the boxes—it was a fast-growing biotech that was making a positive impact on patients through RNAi therapeutics. It was also managing a Department of Justice investigation and needed a strong leader to help chart a path forward for the company. In 2022 Franchini welcomed the challenge, which she describes as “a journey, not a destination.”
“I wouldn’t say we got it all solved, but we continue to make sure that how we do things is top of mind and that’s about understanding legal risks and the benefits you create through your legal approaches,” Franchini says. “It’s about being very risk aware rather than thinking in terms of being risk-averse; there’s always risk in regulated industries. I’ve been excited to help the organization talk about risk differently and start those conversations.”
So far, she has not only helped the company see a favorable outcome in the DOJ investigation but has focused on changing the way legal is viewed among its business colleagues. She sets the tone for her team by being an inclusive leader. As someone who grew up with a biracial background and studied in different countries, she believes that having a diverse team “leads to more innovative outcomes,” she says.
“I like to create an environment where people feel like they can bring their whole selves to work. I want to enable that and for people to feel that level of openness in my organization,” Franchini says. “That means championing communication, having forums that facilitate different types of dialogue and interaction.”
One of those forums has been Harmonia, a LatinX ERG at Alnylam. As an executive sponsor for the group, she aims to pour her life and career lessons back into others.
“I’ve been really lucky throughout my career to have different sponsors, people who gave me advice and who looked out for me,” Franchini says. “I do think the path you take in your professional career is not always clear, so having people that you can talk to, bounce ideas off of, and who can tell you about their professional journey is really important. Things like ERGs are important ways for people to connect.”
Franchini is also excited about ways legal can use technologies, like AI, to become more efficient.
“We’re really embracing it as a legal team. I’m excited to be potentially using AI to generate contracts, to learn from our contracts and to look at efficiencies in our work,” she says. “I think about twenty-five years ago as a junior lawyer and all the grunt work that I did because that was just what we did. But now, we can take people out of the inefficient, routine work.”
She adds: “I can bring my junior people into more substantive stuff quicker because we’re embracing things that’ll give standard contracts to start with. At the same time, we’re staying on top of potential risks and have a team focused on that to be able to go in with eyes wide open.”
Franchini often tells individuals she’s mentoring about the importance of finding common ground.
“There’s always some common ground, even in a challenging situation. If you’re having a hard time getting someone to understand your perspective or why your bringing certain legal advice to the table, you have to find some reason for them to believe and to care,” Franchini says. “Sometimes that common ground isn’t always easy or apparent. In fact, you’re sometimes in situations where you feel like you can’t find anything you can connect on. But even when I’ve gone into a room where I am the only woman or person of color, I assume that there’s got to be some common ground.”