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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Moving Forward


EBR
: What attracted you to the pharmaceutical industry?


Bill Newell: The ability to make a difference in the health and wellbeing of others is an important motivator for me. The potential to actually improve an individual’s physical and/ or emotional wellbeing brings me a lot of personal satisfaction. By enabling the creation of new therapeutics for important unmet diseases, we are making a significant contribution to society.

What inspires you in your daily life?

The creativity and persistence of our scientific team is a daily source of inspiration to me. The biopharma industry is unique in that some failure is an inherent part of the drug discovery process, yet we continue to ask the difficult questions. We subscribe to Voltaire’s belief that ‘No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking’.

Sutro Biopharma collaborates with select pharmaceutical and biotech companies. What is the secret to your success?

At Sutro, we firstly strive for excellent and transformational science, and aim to communicate our work to as broad a group in the scientific community as possible. Our talented group of scientists understand that our success depends on the success of our collaboration partners.

The company is also in the process of developing its own drug pipeline. What will this mean to you and your colleagues?

The opportunity to create a novel therapeutic is a tremendously exciting and rewarding opportunity. We are focusing our current research efforts on cancer, which is very challenging, and hope to be able to add to the armamentarium that is used to battle this disease.

Which novel classes of therapeutics should we keep our eyes on?


The classes of therapeutics that will be most interesting over the next five to ten years are targeted therapies that have multiple methods of affecting the course of a disease. I believe we will begin to see more therapeutics that use multiple mechanisms for targeting the underlying cause of a disease, which can range from antibody drug conjugates to bi- or multi-specific antibodies. These therapeutic approaches hold promise in our battle to transform cancer into a chronic, rather than life-threatening, disease.

What can governments do to encourage life sciences and biotech start-ups?

Currently, the government allows for the delayed recovery of the significant investment required to develop therapeutics by permitting unprofitable biotech companies to build up their net operating losses and then, eventually, allowing these losses to be used as offsets against some future profits. New initiatives that enable companies to get value in exchange for these losses – similar to the way that pollution credits can be exchanged for current value – would be extremely encouraging and beneficial for start-ups.

What are your goals for the coming year?

At Sutro, we are working on forging additional collaborative relationships with cutting-edge pharmaceutical companies. We see 2013 as a year of tremendous promise on the deal-making front, and look forward to the opportunity to collaborate with leading biopharmaceutical, ADC, bispecific antibody and vaccine companies.

What does the pharma sector need to focus on in 2014?

An area that can be improved in the pharma sector is to better understand what pharma’s strengths and weaknesses are. A lot of innovation is occurring outside of pharma, and with better self-awareness – and by examining potential ways to collaborate – it will bring optimal resources from each party to a partnership, thus our industry will have more success. Smaller companies bring cutting-edge technologies to the table, and large pharma can provide development, commercial expertise and financial support, creating a partnership that can result in mainstream success for all.

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Bill Newell is Chief Executive Officer of Sutro Biopharma. He has over 15 years' experience in the biotechnology industry, having held senior management positions at Aerovance, QLT and Axys Pharmaceuticals.
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