Senior Vice President, Development Operations, Gilead Sciences
Gilead toasted Andrew Cheng's decade as a kingpin in its HIV franchise with a new promotion in February to a custom-made job. The San Francisco biotech clearly hopes that the success Cheng has helped achieve in HIV he will now repeat in its expanding hepatitis and cardiovascular portfolios. And how successful is that? Just one sign: In March, Business Week named Gilead no. 1 in its annual top-50 rankings of all US companies.
Pharma's success at taming the devastating HIV epidemic is what motivated Cheng to pick a career in pharma rather than academic research. "During the tail end of my residency, the impact that the industry was having in transforming HIV [with protease-based combinations] became more clear," the 42-year-old MD/PhD says. "That led me to Gilead."Cheng can boast of having played a role in innovating the entire treatment of HIV with Gilead's development of Truvada, a fixed-dose combination, and, especially, Atripla, the first-ever one-a-day pill. For patients who had been used to choking down handfuls of HIV pills two or three times a day, this joint effort with Bristol-Myers Squibb has had a dream-come-true aspect. In 2008, nearly two-thirds of the nation's 565,000 HIV patients were on Gilead drugs.
In his new gig, Cheng will look to cement Gilead's market-leader status by shepherding through Phase III and FDA its new flock of HIV compounds, including elvitegravir, a second-in-class integrase inhibitor, and a pharmaco booster of two HIV drug classes to allow for lower doses and fewer sider effects.
Cheng will also be directing his staff towars a flock of 550 people in charge of five functions in four therapeutic areas. How does he manage the tricky leap from being a doer to being a manager? "I've learned to rely on and listen to other people," he says. "That has helped me grow outside my comfort zone."