Welcome to ‘A day in the life of a pharma exec,’ a series examining what it’s like to walk in a pharma executive’s shoes for a day. Today, we’re going behind the scenes with Patricia Hurter, CEO of Lyndra Therapeutics, who starts her day with a lengthy ride on one of her horses and winds down with a book every night.
In focus with: Patricia Hurter, CEO and board member, Lyndra Therapeutics
The lowdown on Lyndra: Rather than innovating new drugs, Lyndra is aiming to dramatically change treatment paradigms with “ultra-long-acting” oral doses for a number of existing therapies in common conditions. The company’s LYNX drug delivery platform is based on more than 50 patents for “design, engineering and materials science to achieve dramatically reduced dosing frequency,” with the goal of turning once-daily oral drugs into once-weekly or once-monthly treatments.
The company has an R&D lab, manufacturing facility and about 115 full-time employees.
So far, Lyndra has reformulated 19 therapies in the lab and taken six candidates into clinical studies, with an initial focus on CNS disorders such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia, and illnesses with a large impact on public health, such as opioid use disorder.
The latest: Earlier this month, Lyndra dosed the first patient in a pivotal trial testing a weeklong oral dose of risperidone on patients with schizophrenia and bipolar 1 disorder.
Here Hurter dishes about her go-to morning routine, how she’s minimized time spent in meetings and what it was like navigating Lyndra through the SVB Bank crisis.
A look at Hurter’s day
How she gets her start: I wake up between 5 and 6 a.m. The first thing I do is check email, which is a bad habit, but that’s what I do. Then I feed the dogs, make tea — which is really important — stretch, get on my riding clothes and go out to ride.
"There aren’t many sports ... where you get this adrenaline rush but also feel you’re in touch with your spiritual side."
CEO, Lyndra Therapeutics
I compete with some of my horses and am an amateur jumper in the 1.1- or 1.3-meter hurdles. In the summer my horses are in Virginia and in the winter they live in Florida. I compete in both states including in a fantastic show in Virginia that’s the longest running horse show in the world — it started in 1853.
On weekdays, I ride for about an hour but on weekends, I ride all morning. I go out riding on beautiful trails with beautiful hills — it’s really stress relieving. There aren’t many sports like horseback riding where you get this adrenaline rush but also feel like you’re in touch with your spiritual side when you do it. It makes my heart happy and it’s good for the soul.
The first person Hurter talks to every day: Jessica Ballinger, the chief operating officer and president. She’s been there since the second year of operations and is my right-hand person. She knows where everything is and is on top of it all.
Key metrics Hurter is tracking: We just started our first phase 3 trial, which is a huge milestone for a company and is very difficult to do. But we’ve accomplished this as a team. We were tracking manufacturing progress closely to have supplies ready for the study, so now it’s about enrollment, screen failures, etc.
And we’re tracking cash closely because it’s a tricky financial environment right now.
How much of Hurter’s day is spent in meetings: It used to be back-to-back all day but in the last few months I’ve been trying to find more time to think, so I restructured our leadership team recently to make it smaller with each of them having more functional areas reporting to them. For example, I used to have a head of R&D and a head of manufacturing, now I have one person with both of those functions reporting to me. This way I have fewer direct reports and I’m in fewer of the technical, nitty-gritty meetings and have been delegating that to others, which has been helpful.
"All of our money was at SVB Bank and when it failed that was one of the worst weekends of my life."
CEO, Lyndra Therapeutics
Then when I have a few free minutes and an uncluttered brain, I can think about investors, read industry news, and come up with ideas for companies who might want to incorporate our technologies and that we might have potential synergies with.
The biggest issues keeping Hurter up at night: Going into phase 3 was anxiety-inducing and there was a lot of worrying that if something went wrong we wouldn’t get there — but we just did. Now, it’s about money and the external financial environment.
All of our money was at SVB Bank and when it failed that was one of the worst weekends of my life. We got through that one OK and we didn’t lose money because the federal government stepped in — but there were a couple of days where there was a lot of uncertainty.
What Hurter learned from the banking crisis: Pay more attention to how you manage your money. It’s hard because there are so many things you’re supposed to be paying attention to.
But something that helped was this CEO forum that formed during COVID, and that jumped into action that weekend. It’s a WhatsApp chat forum with about 100 biotech CEOs and there were a lot of people on there helping each other out, sharing info and making suggestions. That reinforced the importance of having a great network. When you’re the CEO of a small company you need the collective resources of the whole community.
The most important aspect of Hurter’s job: Coming up with the right strategy for the company and then ensuring we have the resources to execute that strategy. Raising money is important, and then hiring the right people and making sure they are properly motivated and happy. So you have to have the right company culture.
And then knowing the right time to change course. You may have come up with strategy A and then if it doesn’t work you have to pivot.
The leadership quality Hurter is trying to grow: The biggest ones are holding people accountable and delegating more. I tend to be a do-it-yourselfer. But that’s not scalable and you’re not building for the future that way.
How Hurter winds down after work: I love reading and pretty much always read before I go to bed. I read very fast — about one to two books a week, or on vacation, I read almost two books a day.
One of Hurter’s favorite recent reads: “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus. It’s about a woman who’s a research chemist in the ‘60s and dealing with workplace harassment in a very male-dominated world, but it’s still funny, thought-provoking and very interesting.