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Dr. Daniel Auclair
Bridging the Cancer Gaps
Title: Senior VP, Research
Company: Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation
Education: BS, Biochemistry, MSc, Biochemistry, University of Montreal; PhD, Nutrition/Biochemistry, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Cancer Center
Family: Father — lost to an aggressive form of DLBCL in 2011, who could/would have been treated differently in today’s precision medicine world — who was a construction business owner who taught him how to be a compassionate boss; mother, who has given up everything for her family, including a career; wife, who is a wonderful mother, best friend, and a pharma industry cancer fighter working on new IOs drug development
Hobbies: Enjoying the outdoors, gardening
Bucket List: Travel to the disappearing rain forests of Central and South America; to Australia’s Outback to seek a peek at the extinct Tasmanian tiger that is reportedly still roaming there
Tweet at: @AuclairDan
In a strange coincidence, Daniel Auclair, Ph.D., the senior VP of research at the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) was working with MMRF founder Kathy Giusti, and fellow PharmaVOICE 100 honoree, long before he ever knew her, and long before MMRF was even established. As a fellow at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Auclair studied the mechanisms of responses to emerging new anti-myeloma drugs and co-authored the first ever myeloma gene microarray work.
Having molecularly profiled hundreds of samples from cancer patients who had lost their battle with the disease, he had the opportunity once to work with a newly diagnosed myeloma patient. Dr. Auclair wondered what happened to that patient, and many years later, he discovered that this patient was, in fact, Kathy Giusti.
For more than 20 years, Dr. Auclair has been involved in cancer genomics drug discovery efforts at top academic and pharmaceutical institutions. Dr. Auclair has made a significant impact on MMRF and the myeloma community as a whole over the years. The contributions he has made have helped to better understand the blueprint of myeloma and to develop new precision medicine initiatives to accelerate myeloma drug development. After spending almost a decade in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, mostly at Bayer Pharmaceuticals, he joined MMRF in 2007.
He has played an important role at the foundation, serving first as a scientific manager for the clinical arm of the MMRF, the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC) from 2007 to 2010, and then from 2013 to the present as director, then VP of research, and now senior VP of research.
Dr. Auclair has played a critical part in MMRF’s precision medicine initiatives. He was first charged with building out the MMRF Multiple Myeloma Genomics Initiative (MMGI), an effort that led to myeloma being the first cancer to sequence a large number of its genomes in 2009. MMGI provided an initial glimpse at how myeloma evolved over time with treatment, and highlighted the presence of actionable alterations that could be targeted by therapeutic agents in the clinic for other cancers. To follow up on the MMGI’s findings, he was involved in the development and execution of the groundbreaking MMRF CoMMpass (Relating Clinical Outcomes in Multiple Myeloma to Personal Assessment of Genetic Profile) study, which now follows 1,150 patients from their first diagnosis all the way through their care journey with the disease.
Under Dr. Auclair’s leadership, this year CoMMpass went live in the Genomic Data Commons (GDC), making myeloma the cancer with the greatest amount of genomic information currently in the GDC. MMRF was also the first disease foundation to deposit data into the GDC, hopefully inspiring other patient-centric groups to also contribute.
In 2011, Dr. Auclair lost his father to an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which had been misdiagnosed and might have been treated differently had his genomic data been analyzed earlier. Dr. Auclair promised himself from that point on that he would work to insure that no other family would suffer in such a way and that the promises of the genomic era would be brought to bear for all patients.
In recent years, he has also played a key role in developing partnerships with NCI and the FDA. Dr. Auclair says the results of these partnerships have been his biggest career highlight to date. These discussions have aimed to chart a course for accelerated myeloma drug development by launching initiatives around novel surrogate markers and innovative trial designs.
“I have been able to act as the bridge across the Cancer Archipelago to bring academia, FDA, and pharma companies together to collaborate around important myeloma drug R&D efforts,” he says. (Editor’s Note: Cancer Archipelago is MMRF’s trademarked name for the fragmented cancer research landscape.)
Dr. Auclair keeps a low profile, and has been often teased by colleagues about being one of the most influential yet unknown executives. We hope being named to the PharmaVOICE 100 is a cure for that. (PV)
Dr. Val Sudakin
A Passion for Science
Title: Senior VP, Head of Scientific Services
Company: Connexion Healthcare
Education: MSc, Biochemistry, cum laude, Kiev State University; PhD, Biochemistry, Technion — Israel Institute of Technology
Val Sudakin, Ph.D., a scientist, with a passion for medicine, brings his expertise and industry acumen to overseeing scientific strategy and medical content at Connexion Healthcare, a medical communications company, where he leads the oncology and rare disease centers of excellence as senior VP, head of scientific services.
Dr. Sudakin’s scientific training in cancer biology is an asset in helping clients navigate today’s constantly evolving pharmaceutical/biotechnology landscape. Dr Sudakin is not only attentive to the immediate needs of Connexion’s clients, but also develops innovative strategies to promote their future success.
To the scientific and editorial team members who report to him, Dr Sudakin has been both an inspiring and genial colleague and a valued professional mentor. Through long, busy days, he maintains and conveys a sense of calm and extraordinary leadership, key qualities for managing in the fast-paced communications agency environment. He appreciates the strengths and uniqueness that individual team members bring to the table, and uses empathy, humor, and a keen sense of personal understanding to help others succeed in their work and professional development.
Dr. Sudakin is highly collaborative in his approach and extends his vast knowledge to help clients deliver therapeutics that provide meaningful advances to patients who live with cancer or serious, often life-threatening, rare diseases.
According to his peers in the industry, Dr. Sudakin has a unique and nuanced understanding of the pharmaceutical landscape and how medical communications professionals can serve as true strategic partners to their clients. The phrase “strategic partner” is often tossed about but not often achieved. Placing the needs of his clients first, Dr. Sudakin ensures that the agency’s team members do so as well. As a result he is widely admired and respected by all.
He is responsible for understanding and communicating everything from research and discovery to post-market clinical development to the groups that support these endeavors. He has developed solutions that help transform patients’ lives and enable healthcare professionals to provide the best care. The end result is a foundation that supports clients that focus on developing first-in-class and best-in-class therapeutics for cancers and rare diseases.
“Because we are not given too many chances to succeed, I am deliberate in my actions,” Dr. Sudakin says. “I am also loyal — I want my team members to know they are part of the solutions we bring to market.”
Colleagues say Dr. Sudakin is a selfless leader and professional with grace and integrity unparalleled in the life-sciences industry, while his insight, patience, and attention to detail result in superior deliverables.
Dr. Sudakin is being recognized because of his overall passion, conviction, and inspirational qualities; his ability to turn obstacles into opportunities; and his dedication to improving the lives of patients. (PV)
Dr. Steven Anderson
A Visionary in the World of Precision Medicine
Title: Chief Scientific Officer
Education: BA, Biology, St. Cloud State University; PhD, Genetics, Iowa State University
Family: Wife, Barbara, who has supported him in every step in his work/career, and who has been patient with his travels and time spent away from home
Hobbies: Spectator sports
Bucket List: Attend all major sporting events — World Series, Super Bowl, Olympics, NCAA Final Four tournament
Associations: American Association of Cancer Research; Association for Molecular Pathology; American Cancer Society
As chief scientific officer of Covance Drug Development and a senior VP for parent company, Laboratory Corporation of America, Steven Anderson, Ph.D., has demonstrated an outspoken passion throughout his career for the exploration and advancement of next-generation medical and laboratory science, particularly as it applies to precision medicine.
Dr. Anderson is a recognized thought leader in this field. His research interests are focused on the development and application of molecular diagnostics and he has a long history of leadership in the area of companion diagnostics, working on the development, validation, and implementation of a large percentage of such tests in use today. Starting with the first companion diagnostic assay for HER2 associated with the use of Herceptin to the most recent examples involving checkpoint inhibitors in immuno-oncology, Dr. Anderson’s involvement in precision medicine has spanned a broad spectrum of companion diagnostics involving both molecular biology and pathology applications.
He calls his role in the development and implementation of multiple cancer companion diagnostics a career highlight.
Known simply as Dr. Anderson, he has been instrumental in helping the company adapt to a changing pharmaceutical landscape. He has helped identify the scientific intersection between LabCorp and Covance, creating opportunities to develop unique therapeutic solutions for patients worldwide.
Dr. Anderson says he is motivated to go to work every day to contribute to new therapies and associated diagnostic assays that help large groups of patients. And he says big data collaboration is the best way to capitalize on data sets that are incomplete. In fact, he says if he had unlimited resources he would address the challenge and opportunity provided by big data, both the tools and applications for data analytics.
As the head of the Covance Scientific Council, Dr. Anderson facilitates the interaction of Covance scientists and their LabCorp counterparts, who together represent a variety of therapeutic area and laboratory disciplines, business units, and geographies. Over the past two years, he has been a driving force behind the council’s commitment to educating employees about Covance’s scientific strengths, from the end-to-end drug development process to the company’s role in cutting-edge technologies and therapies.
In 2016, Dr. Anderson led the effort to conduct a virtual worldwide internal scientific symposium that allowed Covance employees to learn about the work accomplished by their colleagues. This initiative, which he plans to build upon, is helping to foster opportunities for wider employee development and cross-functional collaboration.
Colleagues say he is a hands-on leader, and he has a commitment to forward-thinking scientific research and development in the drug development industry. They add that he is a visionary leader who is intent on providing Covance’s scientific staff with opportunities to develop and distinguish themselves in the company.
As a mentor to many junior-level scientists within and outside the organization, Dr. Anderson aims to share his experiences and to help individuals grow in their careers. He says he tries to inspire others by his own dedication to the job at hand with a focus on the patients they serve.
“I believe in authentic leadership and being genuine and establishing straightforward relationships with a focus on doing the right thing,” he says. “I identify strongly with those in need and the underdogs.” (PV)
Dr. Bing Yao
Advancing Treatment Through Curiosity
Title: Senior VP and Head of MedImmune’s Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity Innovative Medicines Unit
Education: PhD, Microbiology and Immunology; post-doctoral training at Immunex
Family: His wife of 26 years, who has remained incredibly supportive of his career, even relocating to six states from Iowa, Washington, Colorado, New Jersey, Texas, and Pennsylvania; his dad, who is very caring and gentle and who instilled in him a strong business sense; his mom, who pushed him to be the best he could be — both taught him persistence, which he carries with him every day; son and daughter
Hobbies: Being outdoors and playing golf with his son and daughter
Bucket List: To take his family to Africa and Southeast Asia.
Awards/Honors: Discovery of human interleukin 17 and the interleukin 17 receptor; recognized as a Pillar of Immunology by a panel of world-renowned immunologists on behalf of the American Association of Immunologists
Curiosity is vital in drug discovery and for Zhengbin (Bing) Yao, Ph.D. — this and a deep-seeded passion to find the right therapies for patients have fueled his entire career. As senior VP of the respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity (RIA) innovative medicines unit, at MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, Dr. Yao leads a cross-functional team dedicated to the therapeutic-area strategy, prioritization, and advancement of the company’s RIA portfolio.
While many career scientists are fortunate to see one innovation become an approved medicine, he is proud of the work he has done at MedImmune to help move three biologics to reach, or nearly reach, approval, including therapies in immune-oncology, severe uncontrolled asthma, and moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis. He and his team put AstraZeneca/MedImmune in a leading role to advance a treatment for patients with lupus, who have seen only one new treatment in the past half century, underlining the difficulties of tackling the disease.
Dr. Yao and his colleagues are committed to changing that and have determined that dysregulation of the type I interferon system is associated with various immunologic diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
He and his team at MedImmune and AstraZeneca evaluated anifrolumab, a fully human immunoglobulin G monoclonal antibody that binds to and neutralizes the activities of type I interferon receptor, in a Phase IIb study in patients with moderate to severe SLE. They found that anifrolumab demonstrated broad efficacy across composite and organ-specific end points, suggesting that targeting the type I interferon pathway is a promising treatment option for SLE.
Today, due to the strong foundation of a Phase IIb study, a robust Phase III program is under way. Dr. Yao’s ultimate goal is to see a new medicine brought to market for the more than 5 million people worldwide who suffer from lupus.
He is also a leader in MedImmune and AstraZeneca’s efforts to find an alternative to currently available monoclonal antibodies to treat severe asthma.
Dr. Yao says the process of drug discovery and development includes a series of smart, calculated risks.
“It’s vital to remain persistent and — even in the face of challenges — stand up, dust yourself off, and learn from every experience,” he says. “In the end, the reward is delivering potentially life-saving medicines for patients.”
Collaboration is critically important, as no one company and no one institution has all the answers, he says.
“MedImmune cultivates a research environment where our scientists can freely share ideas and collaborate on projects with the best external experts — and the industry must embrace and personify that quality for the patients we serve,” he says.
As a leader, Dr. Yao seeks to provide opportunities for others and encourages them to broaden themselves.
Dr. Yao measures success by those he has helped, not only patients but also colleagues he collaborates with daily.
He would like to be remembered as someone who loves what he does: finding solutions supported by great science and continuing to develop transformative medicines for patients.
Dr. Yao is grateful to those who have helped him along the way, including his father-in-law, a university professor, who was passionate about research and scientific pursuits, and always cared about his students. He follows the advice given to him by his first supervisor at Amgen, who told him you’re only as good as your latest contribution to science, and that it’s important to remain a student of the industry because it is always changing.
“I learned early on that if you plan to do something for a long time, you must love it,” he says. “At the same time, it’s important to realize that research doesn’t always work out the way you expect — sometimes you have to try and fail and then learn from it. Another important lesson is not to get caught up on overanalyzing — trust your judgment.” (PV)