Key people to know in early drug development

The early drug development world is small, largely revolving around clusters in Boston, New York City and San Francisco. Incubators are popping up all over the place, but a few people have been instrumental in helping those spaces grow.

Here's who you need to know:

Tony Coyle

Chief Scientific Officer, Pfizer's CTI

Tony Coyle

English-born Tony Coyle leads Pfizer Centers for Therapeutic Innovation and claims the title of founding Chief Scientific Officer, among others.

Known for his quick wit and affable personality, Coyle has an impressive background. Prior to helping create CTI in 2010, Coyle led the respiratory, inflammation and autoimmune efforts at MedImmune, with a special focus on early drug discovery in areas like lupus, COPD and asthma. Before that, he played a key role in research for Millennium Pharmaceuticals.

In an interview with BioPharma Dive, Coyle marveled at how quickly CTI has grown in six years, and noted the high success rate of the program so far. He admits, though, that "it's more about working on new ideas that other companies aren't doing yet."

Melinda Richter


Melinda Richter
Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS is probably the best-known incubator in the biopharma industry. Since its inception in 2012, JLABS has expanded to six locations across North America and currently hosts 144 companies.

Melinda Richter, head of JLABS, has been at the center of that growth. J&J brought Richter in from the start to help develop the JLABS concept and market it to young biotechs. Richter, who was CEO of Prescience International at the time, was able to tap her experience in designing biotech incubators to help J&J build out the San Diego site and welcome the first four companies to the program.

"[Richter] really started this process out there on the West Coast because she built this business for herself," Lesley Stolz, head of JLABS California said. "She had her own company that was doing this 10 years ago."

Robert Tepper

Partner, Third Rock Ventures

Robert Tepper
Third Rock Ventures

Third Rock, where Tepper is a co-founder and partner, approaches the startup picture a little differently. Unlike other venture firms, Third Rock not only focuses exclusively on life science companies, but builds them. Instead of participating in the funding rounds of an already established biotech, Third Rock researches interesting science and then forms the company around science or assets it finds. It then places its own partners in the lead roles of the company, allowing them to shape the strategic focus before handing it off to other execs.

Prior to Third Rock, Tepper was the president of R&D at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and previously founded Abgenix. Like Coyle, he also works closely with the NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

Chris Haskell

Head, U.S. Science Hub for Bayer

Chris Haskell

Praised by the residents of Bayer's Science Hub at Mission Bay, Chris Haskell is known for the hard work he puts in to helping the CoLaborator companies succeed – Mary Ludlow, CEO of Cairn Biosciences, credits him with helping the biotech secure favorable partnering terms with Bayer.

Since joining Bayer in 2007, Haskell has held a handful of scientific roles and was appointed to lead the San Francisco arm of the company's U.S. Center for Innovation. There, he's tasked with fostering partnerships with early biotechs and academia, as well as running the adjacent CoLaborator.

Haskell admits that it's about finding the right programs to fit into the culture of the innovation center and creating a place where both the biotechs and Bayer can find value.

Joel Marcus

Chairman, CEO, Alexandria Real Estate Equities

Joel Marcus
Alexandria Real Estate Equities

Founder and CEO of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Joel Marcus has had his hand in the development of a number of life sciences clusters on both the West and East coasts. Marcus has built Alexandria up over the past two decades, transforming $19 million in seed capital into a publicly traded real estate company with a market capitalization of more than $8 billion. 

In addition to Alexandria, Marcus helped found Accelerator Corporation in 2003 to increase the amount of venture capital available for promising biotechs. Marcus sits on Accelerator’s board and Alexandria is part of Accelerator’s 12-company investor syndicate.

Thong Le, the CEO of Accelerator, credits Marcus as instrumental in helping develop the cluster model to support early-stage biotechs, both in New York City and across the country. 

Marcus hopes to help transform New York City into the next biotech hub, setting up Alexandria’s life science campus on the East Side medical corridor and bringing Accelerator over from the West Coast.

"Our view in bringing the Accelerator model to New York is this would add to a base of early-stage venture capital that would make a dramatic impact on starting new great companies, building them here, keeping them here," Marcus told BioPharma Dive.

Follow on Twitter

Follow on Twitter

Filed Under: Drug Discovery Clinical Trials
Top image credit: Depositphotos