In 1994, while she was still at UCSF studying the effects of CTLA4-Ig, which was later developed as abatacept (Orencia) in a murine lupus nephritis model, Dr. Finck was approached by ALZA (now part of Johnson & Johnson), where she worked briefly as a medical director for early clinical development. “I didn’t understand the drug development process, and ALZA was a great place to learn,” she says. “They had great team structure and project management, and they were well organized.”
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Explore This IssueApril 2011
I’m interested in science and in helping patients, so when I made the change to industry, I was concerned. Would it all be about commercial interests?
—Jeffrey Siegel, MD
When it comes to making the right career moves, “timing is everything,” according Dr. Finck. “While I was at ALZA, a recruiter called me about a position at Immunex. I was lucky. I had always been interested in the cutting edge of immunology, and I knew what TNF [tumor necrosis factor] was—and that it was highly increased in patients with RA. At Immunex I got to work in my field of expertise. It was a dream come true,” she says. Dr. Finck was the lead medical director for the phase III clinical trials of Enbrel in RA and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Jeffrey Siegel, MD, is currently senior group medical director at Genentech. After attending medical school at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and completing his internal medicine training and doing some rheumatology training at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, he ran the basic science immunology laboratory at the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Md. After he had done several years of work on control of immune responses, the Navy stopped its support of basic immunology research. Dr. Siegel then took a position at the FDA. “I was fascinated when my first project involved looking at the phase II Enbrel data and helping design the phase III studies, eventually working on the evaluation and subsequent approval of other TNF blockers,” he explains. Dr. Siegel was the team leader overseeing the rheumatology group several years later when other molecules, including Orencia and tocilizumab (Actemra) were evaluated for use in patients who did not respond to TNF antagonists.
“What I loved at the FDA was the need to address public health issues and facilitate drug development in areas of unmet needs. It was very rewarding,” he remembers.
After 14 years at the FDA, Dr. Siegel began exploring career options outside the agency. “I left the FDA because I decided it was time for a change in my career, and I wanted to continue working on drug development—new molecules to help patients—and to help design clinical development programs to bring these drugs forward to patients,” says Dr. Siegel. Because of his long experience in the field, Dr. Siegel knew he wanted to work for a pharmaceutical company with an important presence in rheumatology. He also wanted to make sure the company he would eventually work for had an appropriate focus on the patient. “I got the sense during my interviews at Genentech that there was a strong interest in doing the right thing for patients and applying science for unmet medical needs. There was a good alignment between my views and their approach,” he says.