“This was what I’d been hoping for,” says Mark Rothera, when contacted by a recruiter about the opportunity to be president and CEO at Orchard Therapeutics. Having spent 30-years in industry, Rothera, who will be featured in an upcoming issue of Life Science Leader, got his start in biopharma with GSK before migrating to Amylin Pharmaceuticals. He considers both jobs great experiences. But when he joined PathoGenesis in 1998, he gained an affinity for working in the rare disease space. His preference for working in rare diseases was solidified with subsequent stints at Chiron (through acquisition), Shire HGT, Aegerion Pharmaceuticals and PTC Therapeutics before landing the opportunity at Orchard. “Though I had worked for 20 years in the rare disease field, I had not heard of Orchard prior to being contacted,” he shares.
Rothera says the majority of his career had been spent at U.S.-based biotechs, though working on an international/global level. He had been travelling and living away from his home in London for several years. Having four children, Rothera saw Orchard, which is London-based, not only as a means of being able to continue working in his preferred field, but a chance to also spend time with his now adult children who lived in the area. “I was relentless in pursuing this,” shares the executive, who began at Orchard Therapeutics in Sept. 2017. “It’s like my dream job,” he states.
Considering many patients with rare diseases often die very young, Rothera sees his current job as an opportunity to build a company that can make a real difference in the lives of patients. “I’ve launched seven orphan drugs in my career, including one of the first treatments for Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy,” he reflects. “I helped build Shire Human Genetic Therapies into quite a leader in this field.” But Rothera saw Orchard Therapeutics as the real sweet spot of rare disease, because it’s gene therapy. “Everything I’ve launched has focused on slowing disease progression and trying to improve quality of life,” he adds. “But at Orchard, we have the opportunity to take somebody on a path to dying at five years of age, and with one treatment, provide them with a normal life.”