When asked what personality trait helped him most in his work as CEO of pharmaceutical company Array BioPharma, Ron Squarer said, “A willingness to take risks and endure failure towards goals that really matter.”
He explains it comes with the territory and that his early work in oncology commercial development at Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) was a good training ground for that kind of thinking.
“At the time, they had 18 cancer drug candidates progressing in human clinical trials,” he said.
It was an effort Squarer said led to “critical progress” in the war on cancer.
But the progress didn’t come without difficulties. “There were also many trial failures, lost investment and disappointment,” Squarer said. “In tackling big problems like cancer you don’t get one without the other — success doesn’t come without risk.”
It’s not surprising Squarer ended up in the industry — he’s long been drawn to medicine.
“When I was first exposed to human biology, genetics and biochemistry, I knew I wanted to learn more and be part of the effort to get the human body back on track when it is not functioning properly,” Squarer said.
When he arrived at Array, what excited him most was the quality of people. (Squarer is beginning his seventh year with Array this summer — asked to step into the CEO slot in June 2012 to make Array a viable competitor to the big pharmaceutical companies.)
“Array had a highly-productive, tightly-integrated world-class research group driven to impact human disease as a stand-alone company,” he said.
But added to that, he said, were several good partners such as Genentech, Roche, AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), Amgen (NYSE: AMGN), Novartis (NYSE: NVS) and Celgene (NYSE: CELG), among others.
“Array had many paths to achieve the goal of helping patients,” Squarer said.
Specifically, he said the team at Array emphasized three key values: “One, do the right thing; two, do it with a sense of urgency and creativity, as people are in critical need; and three, ensure we have the knowledge we require to succeed.”
Squarer says the best part of leading Array has been seeing the company’s scientists and clinical development experts translate Array’s science into patient benefit.
“That has brought us to this point where we are preparing to launch our first two cancer treatments, binimetinib and encorafenib, into the market in the coming weeks, pending approval,” Squarer said.
More recent good news on those two drugs: In June, Array announced updated results from trials to tackle an advanced form of melanoma. Findings showed median overall survival was 33.6 months for patients treated with encorafenib and binimetinib versus 16.9 months for patients treated with another drug as a monotherapy.
When asked which achievement at Array has been most important, Squarer talked about studies.
“Registration studies are the final stage before submitting trial results to regulatory authorities for approval to commercialize new treatments,” he said. He went on to mention 10 studies currently advancing related to eight Array-owned or partnered drugs, saying his team has real potential to extend and improve the lives of patients around the world.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than finding new treatments for patients in desperate need,” Squarer said.
Update: The week this story was published, the FDA approved one of Array’s treatments for certain types of melanoma.
Name: Ron Squarer
Company: Array BioPharma, Inc.
Industry: Health and Life Sciences