A Lifetime of Blending Science and Law

Min Wang took a winding route to her role at Agios Pharmaceuticals, Inc., but that experience is paying big dividends for the pharmaceuticals company

Min Wang doesn’t let anything get in the way of meeting her goals. She didn’t let that happen growing up in China, and she didn’t when staking out a career in the United States. That’s still the case now in her role as senior VP, general counsel, and corporate secretary at Agios Pharmaceuticals in Massachusetts.

Wang’s determination is rooted in her childhood. Her parents were both science professors in China in the middle of the Cultural Revolution. She says she was too young to grasp what was happening around her, but her father, a physicist, seized on one of the first opportunities to benefit from it.

Soon after reestablishing diplomatic relations between the United States and China in the late 1970s, the government selected Wang’s father to be part of a foreign exchange program between the two countries in which scientists from different disciplines went abroad to work and study for several years. He spent two years at Stanford University.

“After his two-year stint was up, he came back to share what he learned to help build up the economy and advance research in China,” Wang says. “That was right around the time I was about to go to middle school. But what he told me about the United States then really shaped my career objectives.”

Wang says her father captivated her with talk of the ethnic and cultural diversity he saw during his time at Stanford. The emphasis on individuality and entrepreneurship in the United States was completely different from the homogeneous society in China at the time. Wang set her first big goal right then. She wanted to live and work in America.

“I have really embedded myself in the whole business cycle, from discovery and clinical development to the commercial marketing of the drug and patent litigation work.”

Eventually, Wang went to graduate school at Brown University and enrolled in the PhD program in organic chemistry. About halfway through her five years there, however, she realized an academic career in sciences wasn’t for her. “It wasn’t the perfect fit for my temperament,” she says. “I wanted to be more entrepreneurial, closer to the business side.”

Wang says her parents taught her to always see tasks through, so she completed her PhD and set a new goal for herself. She wanted to find a way to stay close to the sciences and leverage the vast expertise she’d gained.

“I discovered a niche for reformed scientists in patent law,” Wang says. “Given that this is a country that thrives on innovation and arguably supports the world with new discoveries in the pharmaceuticals industry, I saw it as my calling.”

After Brown, Wang enrolled in law school at Fordham University. During that time, she also worked as a patent agent and associate at the intellectual property firm Fish & Neave. The company supported her night classes and gave her on-the-job training working with its pharmaceuticals and tech clients during the day. She worked that grueling but invigorating schedule for four years, setting yet another goal for herself in the process. She wanted to be an in-house counsel and to get even closer to the business.

Wang met that goal, too. In 2004, she became a senior patent attorney at Merck & Co., managing its patent portfolio around antifungal products. She moved on to Genentech in 2006, serving as senior patent counsel. She managed oncology and immunology patent portfolios and oversaw IP aspects of potential and existing collaborations.

Wang joined Agios in February 2010 as its only attorney. Now, she runs a legal department with six attorneys, two contract specialists, and three paralegals.

“Transitioning from the front lines to being more of a coach for my team has been a gratifying learning experience for me,” Wang says. “I have enjoyed helping them be more effective business partners than just operational lawyers.”

It’s a strategy that Wang herself follows and says has been imperative to her success as an in-house counsel.

“I have really embedded myself in the whole business cycle, from discovery and clinical development to the commercial marketing of the drug and patent litigation work,” she says. “Really understanding the business is key.”

Her background in chemistry, Wang adds, has helped her better understand drug discovery and development, thus helping her evaluate legal risks in the entire context of the business and achieve the best results for the company and shareholders.

An example of this, she says, is her ability to recognize that innovations and scientific breakthroughs are also happening outside the walls of Agios. Wang says she helps Agios scientists engage with the scientific community and collaborate with academic thought leaders to accelerate advances in scientific discoveries.

“Intellectual property rights are critically important for our business,” Wang says. “The feasibility of these collaborations hinges on getting the allocation of the IP rights from these discoveries right and creating a win-win scenario for us and the collaborators.”

Wang and her team have partnered closely with the scientific and business leaders at Agios to create a framework to negotiate these collaborations rapidly. The result is helping to advance science and the company’s product pipeline.

Wang also works closely with the Agios executive board, which values her as a key player in all major decisions made at the company. Her relationship with the board is collaborative, beginning with her asking what they hope to achieve on certain initiatives and how they intend to reach the goal.

“If it’s not the right approach for the business or isn’t the right thing to do, I’ll walk them through why it might be a problem,” she says. “Then we brainstorm alternative solutions that advance the business to seize the opportunities and improve success.” In the end, Wang adds, the company still achieves its goals.

“With that approach, they don’t see you just as a lawyer policing what they want to do,” she says. “They value you as a problem solver with the best interest of the company in mind. I know that, ultimately, everyone here wants to do the right thing and do right by the company and patients we serve.” Wang’s goal now is ensuring they find the right way to do it.

Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto congratulates Min Wang on this
well-deserved recognition. We are privileged to work with Min in providing counsel to Agios Pharmaceuticals as the company develops important
metabolic immuno-oncology therapies.” -John D. Murnane and Alicia A. Russo

Faber Daeufer & Itrato have proudly partnered with Agios for nearly a
decade, helping to accelerate their discovery and development of novel
cancer therapeutics through business transactions with leading academic research institutions, thought-leaders, CROs, and industry collaborators. Our team comprises over thirty lawyers and contracts specialists, with creative insight and keen judgment that comes from our deep experience. For more information, see www.faberlawgroup.com.