Enhancing the Focus: Halozyme's Helen Torley

Apr 30, 2018
San Diego-headquartered Halozyme Therapeutics is a biotechnology company developing and commercializing products targeting the extracellular matrix for the insulin, cancer, dermatology and drug delivery markets. Halozyme’s products are based on its ENHANZE technology, a novel drug delivery platform designed to increase the absorption and dispersion of biologics. The ENHANZE platform is behind the company’s value-driving partnerships with companies such as Roche, Pfizer, Janssen, Baxalta, AbbVie, Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Alexion.
 
Before joining Halozyme as President and Chief Executive Officer in January 2014, Dr. Helen Torley held senior management positions at Bristol Myers-Squibb, Amgen, and Onyx Pharmaceuticals, and led several successful product launches, including Kyprolis, Prolia, Sensipar, and Miacalcin. Here she talks to Pharm Exec about her vision for Halozyme as a multi-product oncology biotech.
 

Pharm Exec: Can you briefly outline the Halozyme story, and the key advances the company has made?

Dr. Helen Torley
Helen Torley: Halozyme is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing and commercializing novel cancer therapies that target the tumor microenvironment. We have a unique business model built on two strategic pillars – our ENHANZE drug-delivery technology and our investigational oncology drug, PEGPH20 (pegvorhyaluronidase alfa). Our proprietary enzyme, rHuPH20, is the foundation of both pillars.
 
Our ENHANZE technology is primarily used to take drugs that previously could only be delivered intravenously to a subcutaneous administration, with the goal of creating simpler and shorter dosing. ENHANZE is used in multiple marketed products through global pharma collaborations.
 
We are also advancing our proprietary drug candidate which is in Phase 3 clinical development for metastatic pancreas cancer. PEGPH20 has potential to become the first targeted therapy for the disease. The drug also is in development for non-small cell lung cancer and gastric cancer, as well as in combination treatments for other forms of cancer.
 

What were some of the challenges and advantages you faced coming from big pharma to a leadership position in a smaller biotech?

Having a deep clinical and commercial background and working on multiple successful products at larger companies has proven to be a big advantage. The fundamental principles of clinical development are largely the same between large and smaller organizations. Deciding where and when to invest more scarce resources at a smaller company is an even greater focus. In many ways, a smaller organization has advantages that a large company cannot match. We are nimble, solve challenges quickly and can form and dissolve diverse teams efficiently. This gives us a competitive advantage.
 

What was your vision for Halozyme when you came on board in 2014?

My vision was to become a multi-product oncology biotech, a path we are on today. When I joined Halozyme, the company was not generating royalty revenue and had several different programs, including diabetes, oncology and technology partnerships. After conducting a strategic review, I believed it was important to narrow the focus to cancer drug development and advancing our ENHANZE drug delivery technology, which is now known as our two pillar strategy.
 

How is the ENHANZE technology making an impact, both in the industry and for patients?

Our ENHANZE drug-delivery technology temporarily degrades hyaluronan (HA), a glycosaminoglycan or a chain of natural sugars found naturally throughout the body and can serve as a barrier to fluid being administered in the space just under the skin. The technology is based on our patented enzyme, which temporarily degrades HA in the subcutaneous space to enable a larger volume of fluid and large molecule biologics and drugs to be delivered. This method of drug delivery can help ease the burden of some treatments.
 
ENHANZE has helped health care providers reduce the treatment burden for patients and decrease overall healthcare system costs. Patients potentially receive a better experience as the result of shortened administration times – from hours to minutes – or the opportunity for less frequent injections.

How do you see Halozyme’s journey advancing in the next few years?

 
We have established our ENHANZE drug-delivery technology as the go-to standard to convert IV therapies to subcutaneous delivery. Our focus now is helping our current partners move products into and through the clinic while identifying potential new partners who may benefit from the technology. We believe the potential for ENHANZE royalty revenue can reach nearly $1 billion in 2027 from global, multi-indication launches of currently commercialized products using the technology and other targets in clinical development or planned for clinical development.
 
On the oncology side, we are making strong progress in our pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial of PEGPH20 in combination with ABRAXANE and gemcitabine in first-line metastatic, HA-high pancreas cancer patients. There is a high unmet need in metastatic pancreas cancer where only ~15% of patients survive beyond the first year. PEGPH20 has the potential to slow disease progression for patients. This is what motivates our talented and dedicated team. In addition, we continue to study the pan-tumor potential of PEGPH20 in non-small cell lung cancer, gastric cancer, cholangiocarcinoma and gall bladder cancer.
 

Halozyme is close to having a 50:50 gender balance overall and at the Senior Director and c-suite level.  How do you maintain this equality?

We have seen very clearly that diversity begets diversity. Diversity is a business imperative; multiple studies have shown that diverse teams are more innovative and deliver better corporate performance. Halozyme is a great example of this in action. Our workforce has doubled in size over the last two years, but, as an example, remains almost evenly split among females and males. In addition, 42 percent of senior director and above levels, as well as executive team roles, are filled by women.
 
This balance grew organically and I can say our diversity is being maintained by each leader’s commitment to having diverse candidate pools and then selecting the best person for the job. We couple this with a strong focus on talent management making sure our talent management process is fair and equitably balanced so all employees have the opportunity to develop and grow at Halozyme.
 
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