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Senior Director, Oncology Chemistry, Millennium
BIGGEST HIT: 5 NMEs into trials in 3 years
KEY ROLE IN: Millennium's $8.8 billion Takeda payday
Already a rising star in grad school, Chris Claiborne spent seven years "in training" with Merck's discovery corps before jumping in 2002 to Millennium, then a promising startup in the Boston biocluster.
Six years later, Claiborne, 40, has major bragging rights: five first-in-class compounds moved into trials in three years—including Velcade. "That was the first time I had to advocate for something transforming for the company—but knowing it might fail," he recalls. "Having the organization believe in my arguments transformed my interest in working in biotech."
If leading the preclinical lab has been a learning curve, Claiborne has proved a quick study—and all the credit goes to his boss, Chief Scientific Officer Joseph Bolen, he insists. "He has always emphasized the importance of culture among the scientists and spends every Friday in the lab." Drug discovery is certainly a team effort, but the entire industry took note of Claiborne's stunning six-year run when, last April, Takeda bought the biotech for a sweet $8.8 billion.