Tony Coles - Onyx Pharmaceuticals

Nothing is more influential than success

Name: Dr. Tony Coles
Title: CEO, Onyx

Tony Coles had a great year in 2012. The Onyx ($ONXX) CEO continued to rack up impressive revenue from Nexavar, co-marketed with Bayer. The biotech retained complete control in the U.S. and Europe for the newly approved multiple myeloma drug Kyprolis (carfilzomib, in-licensed from Proteolix). And it will enjoy a swelling stream of cash from Stivarga (regorafenib), a next-gen version of Nexavar that should continue to deliver bottom-line cash for years to come from a hard-won 20% royalty deal.

In biotech, nothing is more influential than success--a rare commodity in the industry. And Onyx has enjoyed a legendary run of success. Coles quickly positioned Kyprolis against its main competition, Millennium's Velcade, fielding a tightly organized sales force with a product priced at a slight premium. That strategy inspired some analysts to predict blockbuster revenue from the new drug.

So it's not too surprising that when Onyx announced plans a few weeks ago to raise $358 million in a stock offering, the buzz centered on speculation that Coles was looking to go buy something, a fresh change from the fevered rumors that Onyx has been on the verge of being bought out.

Some of that money, though, will certainly go to R&D work. There's an aggressive Phase III program for thyroid and breast cancer for Nexavar, while add-on programs are under way for other cancers. More work is being done to expand the market for Kyprolis as well, with a partnership with Pfizer ($PFE) for the midstage PD-0332991 and early-stage research in motion on other therapies.

Onyx has become a model biotech under Coles' leadership, demonstrating how a savvy R&D strategy coupled with a strong commercial strategy (tied to a willingness to make demands when necessary) can command respect from the market and make the company a leader worth watching.

Luck had nothing to do with this. Coles--a physician and 20-year industry veteran--has made calculated, carefully asset-focused gambles that are paying off handsomely. It's a winning style that has helped blaze a path others are certain to follow, making a difference in the way cancer drugs are partnered, developed and sold throughout the world.

-- John Carroll (email | Twitter)

Tony Coles - Onyx Pharmaceuticals