Magazine Article | October 10, 2017

In Need Of A Biopharma Bright Spot?

Source: Life Science Leader

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL

This past summer, a friend told me he had taken a “summer vacation” from the national and local news, noting, “It’s been awesome being totally stress free.” There is some wisdom in his words. Some psychologists suggest that exposure to negative and violent media may have serious and long-lasting psychological effects beyond simple feelings of pessimism or disapproval and can actually exacerbate or contribute to the development of stress, anxiety, depression, and even PTSD. That’s not good news for an industry such as ours that is constantly under public scrutiny.

One of the few national news bright spots happened mostly in the dark (i.e., the positive coverage of the total solar eclipse). But doesn’t that now seem like a distant memory? If you are anything like me, you are probably in need of a little more positivity. And despite what many mass media outlets might lead you to believe, the biopharmaceutical industry has a plethora of bright spots. For example, last month we featured Brent Saunders, who shared the inside scoop behind the speedy development and publication of Allergan’s social contract with patients. We continue this month on this optimistic theme with another bright spot — Axovant Sciences CEO David Hung, M.D.

A highly trained physician, Hung’s decision to leave his academic practice of medicine and join our industry was driven by tragedy — the death of a 28-year-old patient. Like so many entrepreneurs who find themselves founding biopharmas, Hung wanted to make a difference beyond what could be done treating one patient at a time. There are those who choose to focus on the fact that the first company Hung founded, Medivation, failed in its quest to successfully develop a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. What is lost with that kind of myopic view is all the good Hung has done beyond just the successful development of XTANDI (enzalutamide) for the treatment of metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer.

In June I had the opportunity to interview Hung in person during BIO, and to say it was a delight would be understating my experience. Because despite the failure of Dimebon (the drug Medivation had been trying to develop for Alzheimer’s), which we talked about at length, the man continues to ooze positive energy. His infectious smile and contagious enthusiasm made the article so much fun to write that, upon completion, I did something I had never done before — I put together a list of my top 10 quotes from the discussion, which were published on my chief editor’s blog on Aug. 22, 2017. Not long after, I was pleasantly surprised when a reader paid it forward by sharing the following, “I worked for David, and there is nobody better at leading people from top to bottom.” We hope you enjoy our conscientious decision to focus on the positive aspects of our industry. For I prefer Thomas Edison’s perception of failure — “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”