David Hung, M.D.
founder, president and CEO
Founder, president and CEO David Hung runs Medivation with a sense of urgency in recognition that critically ill people are counting on the company to help extend their lives.
A Harvard undergrad and University of California, San Francisco medical school graduate, Hung was profoundly affected during the third year of his fellowship by the death of a patient to breast cancer at the age of 28. He felt no child should outlive his or her parents. That led him to leave academic medicine for industry in the hopes of impacting more lives.
With Medivation, he utilizes his skills as a board-certified physician, experience as a basic science researcher and deep grasp of economics.
Medivation has chosen to focus on the worst and hardest diseases to cure, including Alzheimer’s disease, and breast and prostate cancer.
Understanding the importance of time, Medivation has not only created novel treatments, but has sought ways to shorten development time. Xtandi, a pill for treating prostate cancer, was developed in seven years — establishing a new benchmark for expedited development and commercialization. That success came on the heels of a failed drug trial that almost forced the company into bankruptcy.
The company has expanded globally, employing more than 80 chemists in India and 20 biologists in Chile in addition to hundreds of development employees in San Francisco.
Hung understands that everything starts at the top, and welcomes each employee during orientation. He believes in the importance of leading by example and emphasizes the point by sending a monthly note to employees that reads: “Don’t accept no, always challenge the existing and think about if your life depended on it, would the answer still be no?”
Medivation’s core values of innovation, urgency, passion and quality recognize the connection between excellence and commitment that characterize Hung’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Emil Kakkis, M.D., Ph.D.
CEO and president
Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, Inc.
The son of a physician, Emil Kakkis took a natural path and entered the medical field. While at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center for medical school, he worked on enzyme replacement therapy for the rare metabolic disorder mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS I).
After successful treatment of his first patient, Kakkis realized his passion was not in research, but in working directly with patients and developing treatments to save the lives of individuals with diseases frequently overlooked by companies because they are too rare. Kakkis feels strongly that we did not intend as a society to discover lifesaving treatments but not pursue them because a large market does not exist.
There are more than 7,000 rare diseases, only 5 percent of which have treatments. The science exists to develop treatments, but there is a lack of investment and a challenging regulatory environment.
Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, Inc. was founded in 2010 as a biotechnology company committed to bringing to market products for treatment of ultra rare diseases, with a focus on debilitating metabolic genetic diseases suffered by children.
Kakkis built the company’s infrastructure in a way that creates large efficiencies to allow it to invest in and develop multiple products simultaneously. To date, Ultragenyx has five products in clinical development.
Kakkis has worked for a change in U.S. policy to allow small biotech companies to develop products in a short period of time, receive approval and generate revenue. Through his EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases, he has organized rare disease groups through workshops and lobby days, and advocated to improve development of drugs for all rare diseases.
Kakkis also endowed the National MPS Society with a donation to help ensure the organization could survive and support MPS patients. He organized, funded and supported the formation of the North American Metabolic Academy to train physicians on diagnosing and managing biochemical genetic disorders.
Sarvajna Dwivedi, Ph.D.
co-founder and chief scientific officer
Pearl Therapeutics, Inc.
It’s all about the team for Sarvajna Dwivedi, co-founder and chief scientific officer at Pearl Therapeutics. He believes that every member of the team brings unique values that have helped shape the company.
Pearl Therapeutics was founded after Dwivedi was rejected repeatedly for products he proposed while working at Nektar Therapeutics, which was in a highly specialized industry and did not want to diverge into another sector.
Dwivedi and co-founder Adrian Smith envisioned a company that would develop remedies for respiratory disease conditions. The Pearl Therapeutics business model is driven by a belief that relieving symptoms is the best way to help patients, rather than the prevailing wisdom that patients need more convenient therapies.
They faced several challenges, including the collapse of the core technology being relied on when particles of medicines unexpectedly crystallized. Dwivedi emphasized reliance and faith in the team that had been created. Engineers not only fixed the problem, they also developed a better product.
Dwivedi believes in hiring people for expertise rather than experience. He initiated a people-centered plan called a distributed resource utilization model, which involves hiring the best professionals and assimilating them into one plan. It was paramount to develop high-speed teams with an urgency to deliver results.
The organization has a single goal of generating more value than capital burnt on a daily basis. A delay in one area means the rest of the company must find a solution to make up for that time.
Pearl Therapeutics has progressed three products to Phase 3 clinical trials, which helped lead to acquisition by AstraZeneca — validating the company’s vision, plan, products and team. Although acquired by a large company, Pearl Therapeutics continues to operate as an independent organization, with free reign to develop and grow.