Jose Trevejo MD, PhD
Medical Director and Clinical Disease Area Lead for Infectious Diseases, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
If you ask most people what playing basketball and being an up-and-comer at a biotech company have in common, you're likely
to get quite a few blank stares. But Jose Trevejo, clinical director of infectious disease and novel therapeutics at Vertex
Pharmaceuticals, sees a clear parallel in the frame of mind involved.
"I used to play basketball a lot, and you have to work with other people there, and I've always enjoyed that collaborative
aspect," he says. "Everyone talks about being a team player, but I really feel that I'm more stimulated when I'm in a team
environment. I think a lot of people can play as a team, but actually having it enhance your creative ability is something
With an MD and PhD from Cornell and a career-long love affair with studying infectious diseases, Trevejo has come to appreciate
the collaborative nature of the pharmaceutical industry. "Research and even clinical medicine can be kind of lonely at times,"
he says. "You're spending lots of time in the lab, or writing grants. And the thing I really like about the life sciences
is that you're constantly interacting with people, trying to find the best way forward, and you rise and fall together." At
Vertex, Trevejo has been an integral part of the success of the team for the past two years, focusing on developing a new
medicine for influenza, last year launching the first-of-its-kind protease inhibitor for hepatitis C, and launching a new
medicine for cystic fibrosis earlier this year.
Part of being a true team player and a leader in pharma, says Trevejo, is trust. "I trust myself, certainly, but I also realize
that other people have strengths that can complement my own," he says—much like on a basketball team. "I think we all naturally
tend to think, 'There's something special about what I do and how I approach it.' You almost have to go around acting that
way, otherwise you'll always be doubting yourself. But at the same time, you need to realize that other people are really
good at what they do too, and respect their role."
Just as important as leading—and trusting—your team on the job, says Trevejo, is passing on the skills you've acquired to
help build NBA-worthy players for the future of industry. As a resident, Trevejo spent time helping to educate and mentor
minorities and increasing diversity in the workplace, with a special interest in ethnic under-represented minorities and women
in science. In med school, he participated in a summer program that held classes and mentoring opportunities for under-represented
outstanding students. Trevejo continues his mentoring work at Vertex today. "I've been really fortunate in that Vertex has
a strong belief in diversity in the workforce, and our new CEO and our head of HR have been very supportive," he says. "We're
running a learning lab here so we can mentor and teach local high school students about science."
Reflecting on how healthcare and pharma have changed since his residency days, Trevejo points out that both industries are
increasingly data-driven. "It used to be only the experts in the field who really understood the landscape and could pick
through the data and understand it," he remembers. "But what the information age has given us is that now data is more accessible
by patients as well as physicians." This data-driven environment has not only led to more empowered patients, but more pressure
on pharma to deliver optimal medicines and results, he says. "Today, patients—especially patients who are very involved with
their treatments for a chronic or debilitating disease—have access to information almost in real time. They even know what
the pipeline is. This forces you to really think strongly about coming out with the best in class."