Not A Boring Day

How far will high-school biology get you in the rarified atmosphere of biotechnology and neuroscience? Ask Temple Law alumnus Rick Collier. A Philly guy from a row-house neighborhood, Collier has had an unlikely career trajectory that’s taken him all the way from the streets of northeast Philadelphia to the executive department of an international, publicly traded biotechnology company where he learned to speak the unpronounceable language of pharmacology.

Collier serves as executive VP and general counsel at the Elan Corporation. Elan is actually two businesses: a drug technology division where Elan’s technology is applied to other companies’ drugs to improve their performance, and a biotechnology division dedicated to finding a treatment for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Collier’s commitment to Elan’s work has a personal dimension, too; shortly before joining Elan, his father died of Alzheimer’s. As a result, Collier knows first-hand the devastation that this disease unleashes on everyone in its wake.

Elan is domiciled in Ireland but its corporate officers are scattered throughout Ireland, as well as in King of Prussia, PA, Gainesville, GA, and San Francisco, CA. From his office in King of Prussia, Collier supervises a staff of 50 legal people and is also a member of the company’s senior management body responsible for the daily operation of the company. Collier grew up in the Lower Northeast in Lawncrest. His dad was a surveyor for the city; his mother a work-at-home mom. His parents supported his ambition to become a radio broadcaster and journalist, which led to his matriculation at Temple’s School of Communications and Theater. A career in the law “wasn’t on our radar,” says Collier. “We didn’t know anyone who was a lawyer. Other than what I had seen on TV, I don’t recall even knowing what a lawyer did. My parents wanted me to use my brains and not my brawn, and it was my responsibility to figure out how to make it happen.”

But all that changed during Collier’s senior year as an undergraduate. Collier took classes in Broadcast Law and Journalism Law, and something clicked. He enrolled at Temple Law, where he discovered litigation—what he calls the performance part of law. His summer job was with a trial team at the U.S. Department of Justice where he worked on a trial involving a patent in the pharmaceutical industry, U.S. vs. Pfizer – a case he would continue to work on through his next two years as a law student.

Collier’s first job out of school was in Washington with the Federal Trade Commission. Eventually, he returned to Philadelphia to work for two prominent city law firms as a litigator doing commercial litigation and antitrust work. After experiencing both government service and private practice, Collier decided that a move in-house would provide a better fit for him. As a result, in 1986 he took a job with the Rorer Group Inc. in Fort Washington, best known for Maalox. This was to be his first venture as a lawyer in the prescription drug industry. When Rorer later merged with Rhone-Poulenc in 1994, Collier became the senior VP and general counsel of the new entity. In 1997 he moved on to Pharmacia and UpJohn Inc., steering that company through its merger with Montsano. Collier helped negotiate the company’s subsequent $50 billion sale to Pfizer in 2003.

In 2005 Collier commenced an additional career as an adjunct law professor at his alma mater, where he teaches a class on food and drug law. “Now that I have taught the course for five years, a number of my former students are practicing food and drug law,” he explains. “Temple is strategically located in the pharmaceutical corridor so it’s a good field to enter.” Collier has never tired of the work: “I tell my students that I’ve been practicing food and drug law for 23 years and I’m still waiting for my first boring day.”

One of the most satisfying aspects to earning a law degree is the opportunity to work for real change in the lives of those around us. Richard Collier knows this all too well – and he’s grateful to Temple Law for the opportunity to make a difference. “Since I lost my father to Alzheimer’s, the most rewarding thing to me is that Elan is generally viewed as on the forefront of Alzheimer-related research and having great potential to deliver a disease-modifying Alzheimer’s therapy,” he explains. “In my work, I have the opportunity to be close to that science and to help it to progress. I have a true appreciation for what Temple afforded me. Doors opened for me due to the knowledge gained there.”