Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Everest Medicines isn’t shooting at small targets. Dr. Kerry Blanchard, former CEO of Everest, has helped lead plans for the China-based biotech company to become a powerhouse in the Asian pharmaceutical industry with a range of early and late-stage assets.
After joining the company in 2020, Blanchard positioned Everest as a commercial-ready organization with 11 innovative pipeline candidates in four major therapeutic categories — oncology, immunology, cardio-renal disease and infectious disease — which correspond to some of the most pressing and common diseases in the Asia-Pacific region. He has also helped to establish a highly effective discovery operation to broaden the pipeline for the future as well as engage a robust cohort of partners, including some of the biggest names in the industry: Novartis and Pfizer.
As a physician-scientist, Blanchard is energized by the prospect of discovery and enjoys taking a hands-on approach to make a difference for patients. He recognizes the urgent need patients face, especially in China, where new drug innovation is sometimes behind pace, given the national industry emphasis on biosimilars and generics.
“Despite the tremendous advances in science and medicine over my lifetime, the unmet need continues to grow,” he says. “Most advances are incremental and largely derivative. Discovering and developing disruptively innovative medicine has been my life’s dream — it’s my blue ocean.”
After more than 15 years in academia, Blanchard was eager to broaden his focus and joined the industry to help advance medical discoveries with greater speed and efficiency.
“Early on in my life I saw there was a gap between the practice of medicine and the practice of basic science — now called translational science,” he says. “The idea of standing in the middle of the gap and trying to pull the disciplines together was very compelling to me.”
“In my heart I am a servant leader — I strive to find great people with great ideas and I try to help them accomplish the most we can do as a team.”
Dr. Kerry Blanchard
Former CEO, Everest Medicines
Blanchard spent almost 18 years at Eli Lilly, where, one of his nominators says, he led the research and development strategy around Verzenio, a CDK4/6 inhibitor for certain types of breast cancer, which the FDA ultimately approved in 2021.
Among Blanchard’s many career highlights was keeping this research project going throughout the years. Several of his Eli Lilly colleagues say that despite steady scientific progress, it was his persistent advocacy, resilience and dedication to the project that prevented it from being sidelined.
Blanchard brought this same pioneering spirit to build out Everest’s discovery area of the business. Blanchard has told his team that he believes a successful drug candidate requires an “exact stepwise progression that must be followed: First, connect the disease to biology; second, connect the biology to chemistry; and third, connect the chemistry to the patient.”
“My spouse gave me a cup 40 years ago with a quote from Sir James Simpson, the doctor who discovered chloroform as an anesthetic,” Blanchard says. “It reads: ‘I prefer to have my reward in the gratitude of my patients.’ I looked at this cup every day for many decades as inspiration.”
In addition to serving patients, Blanchard says he takes great pride in the success of the leaders he has worked with over his career.
“My first physician team at Lilly had eight young leaders, most of them have become CMOs in the last few years. I am so proud of them. I try to mentor employees and others in the community as much as possible,” he says.
At Everest, Blanchard focused on finding great people with great ideas and is dedicated to helping them accomplish as much as possible.
“In my heart I am a servant leader,” he says. “I am fairly iconoclastic — I often don’t follow process or rules-based approaches. I believe that almost everything is possible, just not easy. If you try to accomplish the impossible and fail, you are probably much further ahead than simply doing what you know can be done.”
Editor’s note: As of Aug. 26, 2022, Dr. Kerry Blanchard has stepped down as CEO and will remain as an adviser to Everest for six months following his resignation.