Jeffrey Tong, Infinity Pharmaceuticals

Jun 01, 2009
By Pharmaceutical Executive

Jeffrey Tong
Vice President of Corporate and Product Development, Infinity Pharmaceuticals

My first introductions to medically relevant biology and chemistry began when I worked with Harvard professor Greg Verdine to figure out how enzymes recognized and repaired damaged DNA. I stayed at Harvard to initiate my PhD studies under Professor Stuart Schreiber, researching the chemistry and biology of histone deacetylase enzymes, an important target in cancer research. I've had my greatest learning opportunities when I'm thrown into a new role and have new experiences, both positive and negative—e.g., starting an IP department, starting our first product development efforts, going to the FDA for the first time. These formative experiences have contributed to my overall education.

As a scientist, I have always been drawn to (and trained in) interdisciplinary approaches to understanding human biology—discovering medicines is the ultimate setting for using these skills and making a difference in patients' lives. As a business builder, I enjoy the entrepreneurial environment, where the challenge isn't avoiding risks, but rather knowing how to use them to create value. The integration of complex science and medicine with business-building naturally led me to a startup biotech.

At Infinity, we exercise a citizen-ownership (CO) model, which means every citizen owner's effort, opinion, and ideas have equal value. While I am a manager, I am still very much a "doer," in keeping with our culture at Infinity. I believe you need to continue to be a doer to stay sharp while bringing broader perspectives as a manager. The most challenging aspect of being a manager in the CO environment is harnessing and directing all the bright ideas that emerge on a daily basis, and bringing those ideas to fruition through a collaborative, team-driven effort.