Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Being a true R&D innovator takes a combination of traits — patience, passion, scientific expertise and an unwavering drive to help patients among them — and Dr. Rafael Amado, executive vice president of R&D at Allogene Therapeutics possesses all of these and more.
In fact, one of his nominators calls Amado his “most trusted R&D partner.”
“He is a strategic thinker and a brilliant scientist who sets a very high bar when it comes to practicing good science. He is a team player who deeply cares about others,” his nominator wrote. “His motivation comes from the culture of comradery and celebration. His desire to help patients and make a difference is unwavering, in addition to also wanting to enjoy the work he does.”
Amado joined Allogene in 2019 after R&D leadership stints at Adaptimmune, GSK and Amgen, and since then, he has “proven to be an innovative, passionate, and strategic leader, selecting and supporting the best members for his teams. Together, they are pioneering clinical and research programs for allogeneic chimeric antigen receptor (AlloCAR T) cell products in hematology and solid tumors,” his nominator writes.
This experience will prove crucial as the company works to advance its off-the-shelf CAR-T cell products. Currently, Allogene has a range of candidates in preclinical to phase 1 testing targeting hematological malignancies and solid tumors, and it will soon launch the industry’s first pivotal study in large B cell lymphoma.
“He has continually demonstrated an exceptionally steady, thoughtful, innovative and patient-focused ability to lead clinical research strategy and successfully execute the research and development of novel, paradigm-shifting cancer treatments,” a nominator said.
Despite this impressive pedigree — or perhaps because of it — Amado describes himself as “quiet and introspective by nature” — and that influences his leadership style.
“Because of this, I truly understand how important it is to be inclusive. I listen intently and work to inspire, guide, and empower people,” he says. “I believe it is crucial to set concrete objectives and to clear a path that allows others to succeed. It is about helping others step back and see the bigger picture.”
An oncologist himself, for Amado, the “bigger picture” is always about patients, whether it’s worrying about the well-being of each patient in the company’s clinical trials or developing game-changing therapies.
“I think of every one of them as if they were my patient,” he says.
In fact, that’s what drew him to the life sciences in the first place: “The potential to make an impact in the health of thousands of people, not just those I might see in practice. It is about the therapeutic projections to patients around the world in need of new therapies, and the potential to change the practice of medicine,” he says.
“The most rewarding part of your job can be to give others in your organization the chance to grow and guide them toward success, while using the collective ingenuity to realize the optimal balance of benefit: risk in every drug we develop."
Dr. Rafael Amado
Executive vice president, head of R&D, Allogene Therapeutics
Being an R&D innovator also requires a steady, dedicated leadership style, both during times of triumph and times of challenge. For instance, these traits proved important when Allogene was faced with “a clinical hold from the FDA that was a result of [Allogene’s] programs being the most advanced in the field,” his nominator wrote.
“This hold impacted the entire industry, so all eyes were on our teams. While no company wants to be faced with a hold, the situation provided us the opportunity to re-test our manufacturing processes and reconfirm the quality of our products,” according to a nominator from Allogene. “Under the deft stewardship of [Amado], our team was able to respond and resolve the hold with the FDA within three months, developing new processes and paving the way for industry-defining understanding of gene editing and cell therapy.”
Now he’s focused on “bringing the potential of allogeneic CAR-T products to patients with the potential to be curative — even in solid tumors.”
It’s all a continuation of a career spent as an R&D innovator.
“His career leading the development of several breakthrough treatments in hematology and oncology is truly remarkable and we are thankful to have [Amado] by our side as we work toward our goal of bringing allogeneic cell therapy — potentially the next most important revolution in the field of cancer treatment — to patients in need,” a nominator writes.