Life Sciences and overall: TESARO
CEO & Co-founder
Mary Lynne Hedley, PhD
President, COO and Co-founder
Giving patients a voice
Lonnie Moulder and Mary Lynne Hedley lead TESARO with an unrelenting focus on developing new oncology therapies for cancer patients.
Chalkboards filled with cancer patients’ personal stories line the walls of TESARO’s headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts. The stories help remind associates about why they come to work: to make a difference in the lives of people suffering from cancer.
“We are inspired and motivated by our patients’ stories,” says Lonnie Moulder, CEO & Co-founder. “The stories really bring home our mission.”
They also serve as a powerful incentive for Moulder and Mary Lynne Hedley, President, COO and Co-founder. Since starting TESARO, they have embarked on an ambitious strategy to bring ground-breaking oncology therapies to market, fueling the company’s rapid rise as a leader in life sciences. In seven years, TESARO has already commercialized two drugs and started clinical trials on several others, establishing a deep pipeline of products in development.
Introduced to each other by a prominent hematologist when Moulder was CEO of MGI Pharma and Hedley was CEO of her start-up Zycos, they quickly realized they shared a passion for making “a real difference on behalf of cancer patients” and for building a company with a collaborative culture. In short order, MGI Pharma acquired Zycos, and Moulder and Hedley have worked together ever since, including two short stints at Eisai Pharmaceuticals, which acquired MCI Pharma, and then at Abraxis.
In 2010, they co-founded and self-funded TESARO. In addition to wanting to build a meaningful oncology company, they were just as committed to one with a business culture based on collaboration.
“Mary Lynne and I have very different backgrounds,” Moulder says, “but our strengths complement each other, and we are aligned along our values of how to run and lead a company.”
They chose the name TESARO, inspired by tesouro, the Galician word for hidden treasure, because it captures what they try to do as company: discover different compounds and then refine them into effective therapies for patients. To gain traction in the marketplace, they licensed the drug rolapitant, which they brought to market as VARUBI.They repeated this approach in 2012 when they acquired a second product candidate, niraparib. Marketed as Zejula, the drug represents a new approach in cancer treatment: PARP inhibitors, which prevent cancer cells from repairing themselves after they have been damaged by chemotherapy. At the same time, TESARO initiated three phase 1 studies to develop early stage immuno-oncology antibodies.
Many cancer treatments emphasize curing or treating the disease itself, Hedley says, leading to TESARO’s added attention to supportive care, an area that sometimes gets overlooked in the fight to help cancer patients.
“We recognize the cancer patient as a whole person and want to give them a therapy that not only makes them better” but lets them enjoy their life, says Hedley, who cited a survey in which many cancer patients said they dread the side-effects of chemotherapy almost as much as dying.
Developing drugs to help patients fighting cancer — for example, VARUBI seeks to minimize the nausea and vomiting that often accompany chemotherapy — sits at the core of TESARO’s mission. And a key part of achieving that mission means hiring the right people who embrace the company’s teaming culture. “We want people who are willing to do things the TESARO way and put the team ahead of achieving their personal goals,” Hedley says.
At the same time, Moulder and Hedley insist that all employees maintain a healthy work/life balance. In fact, during the early days of the company, Hedley took the laptop from an employee about to go on maternity leave so she could focus on her family. “There is a tremendous risk of burnout in this business, and we make a concerted effort to provide them with the flexibility they need,” Hedley says. “Drug development is a very difficult business. You are constantly addressing new problems. Some days are just really tough.”
As Moulder and Hedley look ahead, they plan to expand TESARO’s international footprint while remaining focused on their mission of helping cancer patients, both through new drugs and by supporting a broad range of nonprofits dedicated to fighting cancer. In September, during ovarian cancer month, TESARO sponsored a number of walks to help raise funds and awareness for the disease, the leading cancer-related death among women.
“We are very focused on patient outreach and advocacy,” Hedley says, pointing to Our Way Forward, a TESARO program that addresses unmet educational needs of women living with ovarian cancer. The program featured a special storytelling event with gymnast and Olympic gold medalist Shannon Miller, herself a survivor of ovarian cancer.
Along with the patient stories on the chalkboards, Our Way Forward embodies the TESARO way: to give cancer patients a voice and make a difference in their lives.
Finalists (Life Sciences)
Stan T. Crooke, MD, PhD
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
President and CEO
Redwood City, CA
Jeffrey Leiden, MD, PhD
Chairman, President and CEO
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated