Emerging Pharma Leaders 2012 - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Emerging Pharma Leaders 2012


Pharmaceutical Executive


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 different."

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."

—Jennifer Ringler


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