Mary Lynne Hedley
President, CSO, Co-founder
Mary Lynne Hedley's latest biotech adventure has her exploring multiple paths to find and develop new therapies and supportive care drugs for cancer patients. Hedley, the president and chief scientist at Lexington, MA-based Tesaro, is now leading the company's excursion to gain FDA approval of its lead compound, rolapitant, which aims to prevent nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy and is ready for late-stage trials. At the same time, she's responsible for hunting for other drugs for cancer patients that fit the company's in-licensing strategy.
It's a big job, but that's part of the joy for Hedley. Rather than take a comfy post at an existing biotech after doing post-doctoral work at Harvard, Hedley and her colleagues decided to license technology from the venerable university and start their own company, Zycos, which focused on cancer and anti-viral drugs. She eventually became CEO of the venture-backed startup, leading the company through its sale to MGI Pharma. One of her proudest moments was handing nice bonus checks to her Zycos employees after the MGI buyout and a series of ups and downs that challenged the team, she said.
There's no reward for her quite like seeing how the drugs she develops help patients. MGI, where she led R&D after the company bought Zycos, was sold to Eisai for a nifty $3.9 billion in 2008. While she was heavily involved in the deal, and upbeat about its outcome, a more personal triumph was listening to the stories of patients who benefited from MGI's drug Dacogen for myelodysplastic syndromes, she said.
Taking a drug all the way through clinical trials and regulatory reviews takes great stamina. "I like to do things that are extremely important and physically challenging," said Hedley, who, outside of her work in biotech, went with her family on a demanding trek down the Inca Trail to explore Machu Picchu in Peru this year and wants to climb Kilimanjaro next year.
"Reaching higher has been critical to my success [in biotech]," Hedley said. "Doing the hardest thing I could, meaning taking the hardest career path because I was going to learn the most. It's the biggest risk because you can fail and if you fail you fall really hard. But sometimes in failure you pull yourself back up. Trying again makes you stronger. And when you succeed you strengthen the belief and confidence in yourself to go to the next level."