Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Our honoree: Dr. Jula Inrig
Position: Chief medical officer, Travere Therapeutics
The company: Travere is a California-based biotech focused on advancing a pipeline of potential first-in-class medicines targeting rare diseases with significant unmet needs and oftentimes with no approved treatment options. In addition to four approved commercial therapies, the company is advancing a novel product candidate, sparsentan, for the treatment of two rare kidney disorders, IgA nephropathy (IgAN) and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). The company also has an enzyme replacement program for classical homocystinuria, a rare genetic metabolic disorder, that is advancing towards pivotal development.
Inrig’s foray into kidney disease: Inrig has dedicated her career to drug innovation in one particular area: kidney disease. It was a niche she stumbled upon in medical school — but she quickly realized it was the right fit for her nascent ambitions.
“When [Inrig] started medical school, she didn’t have a personal connection to kidney disease,” her nominator says. “But she picked nephrology as her specialty because she saw that it was an under-researched area — the need combined with the complex problems the field presents, and the ability to develop relationships with patients while working with them over long periods of time made the choice obvious.”
After she finished medical school, Inrig became board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, and then launched a career that has included acting as the global head of the Renal Center of Excellence at IQVIA, working in clinical trials, publishing several peer-reviewed studies, teaching at Duke University Medical School and the University of California, and serving in a number of advisory and consulting roles.
Although Inrig joined Travere in January, she’s collaborated with the company for years.
“When it comes to rare kidney disorders, Inrig has taken on seemingly every role imaginable in her pursuit of discovering new therapies,” her nominator writes.
Inrig’s impact: “Ten years ago, there was very little development in rare nephrology. Until recently, endpoints in nephrology clinical trials were end-stage kidney failure and death, otherwise known as hard clinical outcomes, and it was nearly impossible to recruit and conduct a rare kidney disease study,” her nominator writes. “Now there’s more than 20 industry sponsors researching potential new therapies in IgA nephropathy [aka Berger’s disease] alone — providing hope for a better future for patients who haven’t experienced it for years.”
What accounts for this uptake in kidney disease research? According to a nominator, some of the progress in the field can be traced back to Ingrid “championing” the use of proteinuria as a surrogate endpoint to accelerate research in therapies for kidney disease patients.
“By looking ahead and seeing that a biomarker like proteinuria could serve as a way to evaluate potential therapies for slowing disease progression, we could actually make some progress in the field and the outcomes for patients,” her nominator says.
“Understand each individual’s strengths and weaknesses as well as what motivates and drives them.”
Dr. Jula Inrig
Chief medical officer, Travere Therapeutics
Starting in 2016, Inrig was a key consultant in the company’s clinical trial design for sparsentan, a candidate for IgAN and FSGS. Now at Travere, she’s helped the company gain accelerated approval of sparsentan for the treatment of IgAN with a target PDUFA date of Nov. 17, 2022.
Why she’s inspiring: Inrig’s inspiration is to drive innovation for patients. At the same time, her nominator says she inspires those around her with a “special type of empathy.”
“Now, because of the breadth of her work, she has many personal connections and stories to share about the need to continue finding new treatment options,” a nominator says.
In her own words: “I oversee clinical development, medical affairs, clinical operations, pharmacovigilance, patient advocacy and part of research and development. Every day is a new challenge and opportunity to help different teams to lead. My goal is to support the leaders to deliver with excellence while ultimately focusing on how we can deliver best in class therapies,” she says.