Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Matt Clark became enthralled with organic chemistry during his undergraduate days — and identified the life sciences industry as the place he could put that interest to good use.
For more than 15 years, Clark has been at the forefront of the rapidly expanding field of DNA-encoded libraries (DEL), which allows researchers to screen up to trillions of compounds for drug discovery.
According to one of his nominators, Clark laid the groundwork for this tech while working at GSK and Praecis Pharmaceuticals. He then funneled his innovations into launching X-Chem, which considers itself a “pioneer” in the DEL market.
“Under his scientific leadership, his team took this niche chemical discovery platform and turned it into a world-leading drug discovery engine to better serve the entire biopharma industry,” one of his nominators says.
Today, X-Chem combines DEL with AI-powered solutions to drive “better” drug discovery for small molecule targets. According to one of his nominators, X-Chem has “more than 19,000 licenses for partners who discovered a chemical matter on the company’s DEL platform.”
The company’s partnership track record includes major players like Pfizer, Sanofi, Bayer, AstraZeneca and more.
“Traditionally we considered the core of our business to be the production of hits and leads for difficult biological targets,” Clark, the company’s CEO, says. “With the advancement of artificial intelligence techniques, we are beginning to see that our data generation and model building capabilities are just as important.”
Despite his techy nature, Clark says he doesn’t lose sight of the bigger picture issues behind his work.
“In the last two years I have learned the importance of bringing purpose into how we think about business,” he says. “At X-Chem, we try to always keep our mission in mind when making decisions: to utilize our technologies to help find drugs that improve health.”
Clark is proud of what X-Chem has achieved, and in his office he has a framed reproduction of the cover of the issue of Nature Chemical Biology in which he and the Praecis/GSK team first described the DNA-encoded library platform.
“I sleep very well at night knowing that I have such great and talented people around me who are motivated and empowered to innovate and push our business forward.”
As a leader, one of Clark’s nominators says he “empowers his colleagues and partners to believe greater accomplishments are always within reach.” To reach this goal, one of his nominators says he makes a point of inviting input and pushback from his colleagues, to help them “learn new skills and make informed decisions.”
Clark says his leadership style is to be “a listener first and a decider second.”
Paying it forward is also important to Clark, who tries to develop the careers of employees both through mentoring and training.
“We want to facilitate the leaders of tomorrow,” he says.