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Ruth De Backer

Partner, New York
Advises executives on challenges at the intersection of healthcare and finance; helps pharmaceutical and medical-product companies balance their business portfolios and find new sources of growth

About Ruth

Ruth leads a unique joint venture between McKinsey's Pharmaceuticals & Medical Products Practice and Strategy & Corporate Finance Practice. In this role, she draws on expertise in healthcare value creation, resource allocation, portfolio management, and ways to address activist investors. In all her work, she seeks to deepen and expand our capacity to advise executives whose challenges lie at the intersection of healthcare and finance.

Deeply knowledgeable in finance and strategy, Ruth primarily works with pharmaceutical and medical-device companies that are looking for growth options and ways to improve their competitive position. She advises senior-management teams as they drive business-building initiatives, including setting international growth strategies; pursuing mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures; and launching spin-off businesses. She also advises private-equity clients on leveraged buyouts and other investments in the healthcare sector.

Examples of her recent work:

  • Guiding a diversified medical-device company through a process to set and implement a new overall strategy. The effort included reorganizing the company globally while also restructuring the business portfolio—including divesting large businesses, combining reporting segments, making acquisitions, and implementing a commercial action plan to drive growth.
  • Leading a project on emerging-market growth strategy for a large pharmaceutical company, including licensing scans in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
  • Defining new capabilities to drive growth for a large medical-device company, including an improved launch process, improved approaches to core-business development and licensing, stronger portfolio management, and better strategic marketing.
  • Helping senior executives at a medical-device company define an emerging-market growth strategy. Support included conducting market assessments, developing go-to-market and market-development strategies, setting up local R&D centers, and identifying local acquisition targets.
  • Advising the leadership of a medical-device company that was facing the pressures of commoditization, on topics such as how to maximize the value of their business by focusing on stronger portfolio management and an upgraded commercial model.
  • Helping a large pharmaceutical company set stronger therapeutic-area strategies, including R&D resource allocation, commercial strategy, and business-development prioritization.

Ruth joined McKinsey's Brussels office in 2000 and transferred to the New Jersey office in 2002. Prior to that, her studies covered business law, including the implications of financial law and regulation. Ruth is fluent in Dutch, English, and French.

Published work

Improving the management of complex business partnerships,” McKinsey & Company, March 2019

Divestiture in medtech: Are you the natural owner of your businesses?,” McKinsey & Company, March 2019

What’s behind the pharmaceutical sector’s M&A push,” McKinsey & Company, October 2018

Delivering growth: M&A in medical technology,” McKinsey & Company, January 2018

Biopharma valuations—onward and upward?,” McKinsey & Company, September 2017

Strategic portfolio management: Divesting with a purpose,” McKinsey & Company, October 2016

Institutionalizing M&A excellence in health care,” In Vivo, March 2016

Pharma M&A: Agile shouldn't mean ad hoc,” McKinsey & Company, February 2016

Staying ahead of the growth curve,” McKinsey & Company, March 2014


New York University
LLM, financial law and trade regulation (Fulbright Scholar)

University of Ghent, Belgium
LLB and LLM, business law