Every day, the CEO of Boston Biomedical Inc. leaves her home and walks the forty-minute journey along the Charles River to the company offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Often, the best parts of the day occur during that walk,” Patricia S. Andrews says. Now in her third year as CEO at Boston Biomedical, Andrews is also the recently appointed global head of oncology for the oncology portfolio of Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma Co. Ltd.
“You figure out how to solve problems, consider things that are on your mind, and maybe figure out who you should be talking to that day,” Andrews says. She walks the same distance home after work to decompress and wind down. Andrews says she’s grateful to have the time set aside, and with the continued growth of Boston Biomedical, it might be a habit more CEOs may want to emulate.
Boston Biomedical, the wholly owned subsidiary of Japan-based Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma, is a developer of cancer therapeutics with the mission of significantly improving patient outcomes. In addition to leading the oncology portfolio originating from Boston Biomedical, Andrews is responsible for oncology assets developed at Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma and its Utah-based, wholly owned subsidiary, Tolero Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Andrews has moved along with the portfolio from early-stage research to a robust pipeline of potential therapies. One asset is currently in phase three of FDA approval, with multiple more assets in earlier stages as well as preclinical introductions.
The company’s latest progress, announced in April 2020, is the phase one introduction of investigational agent TP-3654, which is being studied in patients with intermediate-2 and high-risk primary or secondary myelofibrosis. “The initiation of this study marks an important milestone for our company as we continue to advance our oncology portfolio of investigational compounds into the clinical setting,” Andrews said in a statement.
A Résumé of Care
Andrews has been with Boston Biomedical since 2013, and with good reason. She spent seventeen years at Pfizer, moving through roles focused in corporate planning and marketing, until she eventually found her real passion. “One of our business units was oncology,” Andrews remembers. “I had always wanted to lead a business where there was a high unmet medical need and the science was rapidly advancing. It felt like where I was supposed to be.”
Before coming to Boston Biomedical, Andrews was at Incyte, where, as chief commercial officer, she led the company’s transition from a clinical stage to a commercial one; launched a first-in-class, first-in-disease product; and completed one of the largest deals in biotech of 2009 with Novartis. “Being the first commercial person in an R&D company with such high science and a great product was a wonderful experience,” Andrews says. That experience would lead her to Boston Biomedical.
“[My team works] together to find opportunities, address unmet needs, and overcome challenges . . . The more we can provide patients with a longer life, the more I feel like we’re doing something amazing.”
Coming to the relatively small subsidiary of a global company provided a number of interesting challenges for Andrews. While Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma employs around seven thousand people, Andrews’s oncology team is only a couple hundred. The global reach, however, is absolutely essential.
“Oncology is a global function when you think about our clinical trials,” Andrews says. “We’re talking about relatively rare diseases. We need that patient number to be able to show a statistically significant difference between our compound and what the standard of care is.” Because cancer is such a complex disease and every patient is unique, there is the added pressure of having to identify treatments for specific subpopulations who often have had multiple treatments for their cancer.
Innovation Improves Outcomes
With the introduction of Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma’s Global Oncology External Innovation Hub in Cambridge, Andrews says it’s a commitment to expanding innovation and discovery about cancer research and treatment.
“We have very strong discovery activities ongoing in our Utah and Japan sites,” Andrews adds. “There are also many first-class institutions in Cambridge. We established the External Innovation Hub here to bring in the most innovative thinking occurring outside the industry.” One goal is to help form companies around great ideas. “Ultimately, we might buy full rights to compounds identified through our External Innovation alliances,” Andrews explains.
To foster innovative work, Andrews looks to leadership from the World War II era. “General Dwight Eisenhower said that the art of leadership is to get people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it,” Andrews recites. “I try to create a vision and an environment that generates passion for the work. I think that’s what it takes to be innovative in a highly competitive area like oncology, especially with a small company like ours.”
“Pat is a future-focused, innovative leader,” says Donna Murphy, global CEO of Havas Health & You. “Boston Biomedical is making significant strides in the cancer therapeutics category, and with Pat at the helm, they will remain focused in their mission to make a great impact on patients’ lives.”
Stoking innovation isn’t without potential roadblocks. “There are so many hurdles along the way and many of them are unexpected things you simply don’t know because no one does,” Andrews says. “There are unknowns of biology and the mechanisms of certain diseases and how different pathways relate to each other.”
Then there are all of the necessary requirements to make sure treatments are safe for patients. “And once you’ve got all of those things figured out, there are still all of the traditional commercial considerations of your competition and what everyone else is doing.”
Overcoming those obstacles is a key differentiator for her team. “My team has such good insight into all these issues,” Andrews says. “They work together to find opportunities, address unmet needs, and overcome challenges. We’re trying to bring a needed medicine to a patient with a life-threatening illness, who is probably very scared. The more we can provide patients with a longer life, the more I feel like we’re doing something amazing.”
And should there be an issue Boston Biomedical is particularly perplexed by, it’s OK. Andrews will think it about it on her walk.
“Parexel always aims to partner with innovative companies like Boston Biomedical who share our mission to improve the outlook for patients worldwide. With Patricia’s leadership, Boston Biomedical is poised to help lead the change in the way we look at cancer therapy.” -Jamie Macdonald, CEO