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The CSO Role
The chief scientist officer helps set a company’s strategy, interacts with investors and board of directors, and helps people understand the science behind new products. MCKERNAN. PFIZER. A CSO at Pfizer handles everything from the idea to proof of concept, establishing and building a portfolio and help ing the molecule transfer into the specialty business units or primarycare business unit, depending on the therapeutic. The CSO role is a fairly new one at Pfizer. The Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation Center was a cluster of biotech companies and each of those had its own CSO. When we wrote the business plan for regenerative medicine, we formed it around an independent entrepreneurial unit. In a move toward increased accountability, pharma companies, particularly those with smaller research units, are giving a lot of responsibility to the scientists and putting in place structures that allow people to take ownership over the areas they are working on. POLISKY. MDRNA. The main goal of a CSO is to play a key role in defining the strategy of the science and implementing the strategy tactical ly by interacting with senior scientists. The CSO position also has another dimension, and that is to integrate the science with the business strategy. In a smaller company, because of limited resources, there has to be a senior person to define the scientific strategy. This is not really possible in a larger pharmaceutical organization. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a role for a chief scientific officer at larger companies but I think it is fair to say in larger pharma companies there is more of a cooperative senior management structure. TESSIERLAVIGNE. GENENTECH. Given our strong science focus, the role of chief scientif BY DENISE MYSHKO ic officer is a very natural one. The way that we tackle scientific opportunities is to be entirely driven by a deep scientific under standing of the disease process. In that con text, my job is to run the research organization and work with my colleagues to define the overall strategy for research. Another aspect of the role is to work closely with colleagues in other divisions as we move clinical candidates from research into the develop A CSO’s activities often include a bit of public relations, not only with the outside world of investors and the board of directors, but internally with researchers, clinical investigators, and KOLs. DR.JOSEPH BOLEN Millennium CSOs need leadership skills to harness the energies of an organization, to set the vision, and to motivate employees to execute on that mission. DR.JULIAN ADAMS Infinity Pharmaceuticals CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICERS Chief scientific officers help translate the company’s science into understandable concepts for investors, partners,and other stakeholders. ment organization. One of my roles is to make sure the transition happens seamlessly. BOLEN. MILLENNIUM. CSOs can’t just be about the science; they have to have a significant appreciation for what happens in terms of the design and execution of clinical trials. They have to understand how to organize and execute a successful clinical approach and that has to be tied into the commercial world. CSOs have to have an appreciation and understand ing for what the global commercial realities are for the products that they intend to produce. Today, a CSO at Millennium is quite different from the role before the company’s acquisition by Takeda. My role before the acquisition was similar to other chief scientific officers at biotechnology companies, covering a very broad area, including setting the strategy for research and making sure all of the details were attended to. In a publicly traded company, much of my time was spent with investors, as well as analysts and other stakeholders. Now as part of Takeda, I work with our CEO to explain to our board of directors what the sci entific strategy is and how it needs to be implemented. CLACKSON. ARIAD PHARMACEUTICALS. An important aspect of my role is articulating the science in such a way that it’s understood by potential funding and clinical development partners. Function ing as a chief spokesperson for the company’s science and strategies is key for a CSO. This will become even more important, since companies need to take their science further than was required before. The CSO job title and scope may be more prevalent in the biotech sector, where there is more of an innovative, often sciencecentric initiation that evolves downstream. The CSO role becomes more challenging in a pharmaceutical company that is deeply involved in multiple therapeutic areas. In a smaller company, it’s easier for a single person to own a significant chunk of science that is typically founded around a single therapeutic area or platform technology. JUDICE. ACHAOGEN. I joined Achaogen as CSO in 2004, and at that point my role opera tionally was to find space, set up a research lab, and hire good scientists, as well as set scientific direction and choose what projects to work on and not to work on. PETKOVICH. CYTOCHROMA. At present, I run My role will likely evolve to help the company strategize about which products to go after and which ones to ignore. DR.CHARLES CANTOR Sequenom # Thought Leaders JULIAN ADAMS,PH.D. President of R&D and Chief Scientific Officer, Infinity Pharmaceuticals Inc., a cancer drug discovery and development company seeking to discover,develop,and deliver to patients bestinclass medicines for the treatment of cancer and related conditions. For more information,visit infi.com. JOSEPHB.BOLEN,PH.D.Chief Scientific Officer, Millennium:The Takeda Oncology Company,a biopharmaceutical company whose research,development,and commercialization activities are focused in oncology.For more information,visit millennium.com. CHARLES R. CANTOR,PH.D. Chief Scientific Officer, Sequenom Inc., which provides genetic analysis products that translate the results of genomic science into solutions for noninvasive prenatal diagnostics,biomedical research, translational research,and molecular medicine applications.For more information,visit sequenom.com. TIMOTHY P.CLACKSON,PH.D. Senior VP and Chief Scientific Officer, Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc., whose mission is to discover,develop,and commercialize small molecule drugs to treat cancer in patients with the greatest and most urgent unmet medical need:aggressive cancers for which current therapies are inadequate.For more information,visit ariad.com. KEVIN JUDICE,PH.D.CEO and Chief Scientific Officer, Achaogen Inc., a clinicalstage biopharmaceutical company addressing the issue of multidrug resistant bacterial infections through the discovery and development of innovative broadspectrum antibiotics. For more information,visit achaogen.com. RUTHMCKERNAN,PH.D.Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Pfizer Regenerative Medicine,Pfizer Inc., a biopharmaceutical company that discovers,develops, manufactures,and delivers quality,safe,and effective prescription medicines to treat and help prevent disease for both people and animals.For more information,visit pfizer.com. MARTINPETKOVICH,PH.D.Chief Scientific Officer and Cofounder,Cytochroma Inc., a clinicalstage specialty pharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing proprietary products to treat and prevent the clinical consequences of vitamin D insufficiency and secondary hyperparathyroidism (SHPT) associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD). For more information,visit cytochroma.com. BARRYPOLISKY,PH.D.Chief Scientific Officer, MDRNA Inc., a biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of therapeutic products based on RNA interference (RNAi).For more information,visit mdrnainc.com. JASBIR SEEHRA,PH.D. Chief Scientific Officer, Senior VP and Founder,Acceleron Pharma Inc., a biopharmaceutical company developing novel therapeutics that modulate the growth of cells and tissues including bone,muscle,and red blood cells. For more information,visit acceleronpharma.com. MARCTESSIERLAVIGNE,PH.D.ExecutiveVP of Research and Chief Scientific Officer, Genentech Inc., a wholly owned member of the Roche Group, is a biotechnology company that discovers,develops, manufactures,and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious or lifethreatening medical conditions.For more information,visit gene.com. CHIEF scientists CANTOR. SEQUENOM. It’s important to understand that CSOs have different roles in differ ent companies. My role has evolved tremendously in the years I’ve been associated with this company. My current role is mostly strate gic, interacting with our research and sales development team. Ten years ago, I directed much of the research in a company that was a quarter of the size. Today, I am galvanizing a team around a noninvasive prenatal diagnostic product for Down’s syndrome. SEEHRA. ACCELERON. In larger organizations, chief scientific officers are usually the head of discovery. While they may be involved in business meetings, the impact of those business decisions aren’t felt immediately. In smaller organizations, CSOs have to have a much bet ter understanding of the business they are in. The Skills of a CSO Passion, enthusiasm, and a deep knowledge of science, as well as an interest in the business environment,are someof the skills CSOs need. ADAMS. INFINITY. A CSO needs a broad range of skills. One of the skills is a deeprooted understanding of the science and clinical development, as well as the regulatory envi the preclinical programs and that involves some drug discovery. We’re always interested in new approaches to treating the causes and consequences of kidney disease, which is a key focus for our company. My role also includes providing scientific direction to senior man agement on various topics. Over time, my role has evolved with the evolution of Cytochroma. ADAMS. INFINITY. I oversee all of the R&D and clinical activities at Infinity. I joined the company in 2003 and set the R&D vision toward making a cancer drugdiscovery company with a mission of delivering better treatments for patients in need. I helped set the direction, along with my colleagues, and built the various functions of an R&D organization. As a CSO, the primary role of setting strategy will remain.What will change over time are the tools available to make decisions. DR.KEVIN JUDICE Achaogen # In a move toward increased accountability, pharma companies, particularly those with smaller research units, are giving a lot of responsibility to the scientists and putting in place structures that allow people to take ownership over the areas they are working on. DR. RUTH MCKERNAN Pfizer # The CSO has to integrate the science strategy with the business strategy and communicate the mission to potential investors and other interested parties. DR. BARRY POLISKY MDRNA # ronment. There also are leadership skills need ed that allow a CSO to harness the energies of an organization, set a vision, and motivate the employees of the company to execute on that mission. The skills a CSO needs have changed because the world is more complex, and there are more products. CLACKSON. ARIAD. It’s important for a CSO to articulate rather complicated science in differ ent contexts. I need to understand the science indepth to be able to converse and direct the science with my scientific leaders. I also need to turn around and articulate the same exact story in a different way to potential investors, potential partners, the board of directors, and other constituencies. Each of these messages needs to be customized and clarified in a way that makes sense. CSOs also need strong people skills. Often what motivates scientists is different from what motivates other function al areas, which is often not financial. There is a drive to be involved in excellent science, and the continuation of that science is going to be uppermost in their minds. POLISKY. MDRNA. A CSO has to have a passion for science; fundamentally, this underpins everything. He or she has to care about and have high standards for data and passionately care about the balance of discovery and development. ACSO has to be able to identify good scientific talent and nurture team members’ development so they are productive and happy. And in a way, these are the same issues associ A working knowledge of financial and business aspects of the biotech industry is a key skill set for chief scientific officers. DR.TIMOTHY CLACKSON Ariad Pharmaceuticals # June 2009