Patience, Perseverance and Partnership
We envision a world where cancer is a preventable, chronic or curable disease. To get there, we’re focused on developing solutions that prolong and improve patient lives. In this post, we’re proud to introduce you to two of our most passionate leaders in oncology research, development, and commercialization. At their favorite Thai restaurant in Bridgewater, New Jersey, longtime colleagues, and close friends Trilok Parekh, Senior Director, Research and Development (Pad Cashew is his favorite dish), and Andre Acloque, Group Product Director, Global Commercial Lead, Oncology Marketing (Chicken and Shrimp Pad Thai here), discuss the patience, perseverance, and partnerships that help Janssen bring transformational cancer-fighting medicines to patients who need them the most.
You two have spent a large part of your careers in oncology drug development, and you’ve done so together for the past decade. What’s the most challenging aspect of this work?
Trilok: It’s a lengthy, costly process, with a lot of complexity and, given that only about 1 percent of developed drugs ever get to market, a high degree of uncertainty. You have to be patient! But by working hand-in-hand with cross-functional teams, specifically the commercial team, we better understand what both physicians and patients need. That means that we can not only develop the right drugs, but also collect the right clinical data to put our best foot forward when working to prove the drugs’ value.
Although you share the same passion and goals as you work to bring new solutions to the market, your perspectives may not always align. How do you handle disagreements?
Andre: Respectful disagreement helps deliver the highest quality outcomes. When Trilok and I do disagree, perhaps on things such as what claims can be supported on the product label, we try to separate ourselves from the argument, and then visit it again later with more of an open mind. We always work it out in a way that we believe is best for current and future oncology patients.
What motivates you to persevere in this work?
Trilok: I witnessed my mom and my sister go through this deadly disease, and they inspire me to keep working to provide hope and a better outcome for others, whether I know them or not.
Andre: It’s personal for me as well; my niece passed away from sarcoma. I want to help others live as great a life as they possibly can while fighting this dreaded disease. Our drug could be the one that offers hope to patients, and to their physicians and caregivers. That’s what gets me up in the morning.
What has been your best day at Janssen so far in this work?
Trilok: Certainly, the day you witness approval of a compound you been working on is a great day! But that day only comes because of Johnson & Johnson’s huge commitment to oncology research and development, whether it’s to benefit thousands of patients who have more common forms of the disease, or hundreds or even dozens who are fighting a rare form.
Andre: Exactly. We don’t do this only to drive business results; we do it because it saves lives, and this sentiment is incredibly motivating at a personal level. We often choose to focus on niche areas other companies aren’t addressing. I remember hearing Bill Hait [Global Head, Janssen Research & Development] saying we had to do one small clinical trial, or it would be a disservice to patients. Whether it’s a big medicine or not, we treat them all the same, so we can offer hope to all of the patients who are waiting.
Janssen Oncology is dedicated to the mission of Victories Over Cancer. What does that mean to you?
Trilok: Cancer is one of today’s most urgent and unmet medical needs. Victory for me will be the day we can transform cancer into a chronic, curable – or even better - preventable disease. There’s remarkable work going on right now at Janssen around intercepting cancer in its pre-malignancy stages. In my lifetime, I hope to see the end of this disease, so no one has to worry about cancer. When and if that happens, we won’t have a job – but that doesn’t change our goal!
Andre: Absolutely. It’s also about enabling long-term survivors to maintain a high quality of life. Our people are working so hard, behind the scenes, to bring novel medicines and next-generation approaches to market. I’m fortunate that I see the impact of their work daily. And importantly, I’m proud and grateful that Janssen actively enables our talented, committed teams to take calculated risks designed to conquer cancer and help people live longer, better lives. That’s the ultimate VICTORY!!