After nearly 20 years at Hoffmann-La Roche, William A. Garland, PhD, left big pharma in 1994 to direct research and development for a number of early-stage biotechs, including Lpath and Tosk. For the last 10 years, he's focused on cancer work. After designing and directing pre-clinical studies for AngioGenex's small molecule inhibitors of the pro-angiogenic Id proteins and genes, Garland took over as CEO of the company in June.
“In small, specialty pharma you can control project activity without bureaucratic infighting, portfolio prioritization issues, slow decision making, mixed and conflicting missions, and the high-cost structure associated with big pharma,” he says. “It's difficult to work in big pharma if you're a scientist with ideas.”
“When the promise to cure cancer was made, not enough was known about cancer biology,” Garland continues. “Information has grown enormously in the last 15 years. Now, we're in a much better position. I expect treatments that have a significant effect on cancer to come on market in the next 5-10 years, and biotechs are developing those treatments.”
AngioGenex's product candidates and Genentech's Avastin both target new blood vessel growth, which allows tumors to grow. However, AngioGenex VP business development Michael Strage explains that because AngioGenex's products target Id genes and proteins, which aren't present in or useful to healthy adults, side effects aren't expected, whereas Avastin can cause serious side effects.
Garland's immediate goal is to find funding to complete preclinical and initial clinical testing. “He's a highly respected scientist…with hands-on experience,” explains former AngioGenex CEO Richard Salvador, PhD, who became acting president and chairman of the board after appointing Garland CEO (he was also Garland's boss for about 10 years at Hoffmann-La Roche). “He did an outstanding job in husbanding the research drug portfolio at Roche. He has enormous experience in major pharma and in biotech, where a totally different approach is required.”
Salvador also praises Garland's “excellent” executive and communication skills, noting his rare ability to communicate equally well with scientists, financial people and administrative people.
Garland plans to bring AngioGenex's products through proof of concept and then partner with or sell to pharma. Decline in basic cost structure for drug development is the biggest industry change Garland has seen in the last five or six years. He attributes it primarily to the global availability of contract research organizations (CROs). “Big pharma tends to do things in-house with a fixed cost structure, whereas small specialty pharma places a lot of activities in CROs, which can often be less expensive,” he explains. “Some are as good or better than similar organizations built in-house at big pharma.” Garland expects specialty companies to continue to lead discovery, development and early clinical trials before turning over registration and marketing to bigger companies.
He pioneered the use of mass spectrometry to quantitate drugs and drug metabolites in biological matrices (such as plasma or urine), now the industry standard. He's also invented and brought a number of drugs to market, but he's most proud of the people he has mentored who are “making their mark in pharma R&D.”
Garland believes drugs are “underutilized,” noting that responsible marketing can increase use. “Marketing has a unique role in that regard—particularly now [as] patients take more interest in their care,” he says. “We have to look to the most effective way to get drugs to people. Building a marketing force is daunting. It makes sense to take advantage of big pharma's expertise in that area.”
William A. Garland, PhD
Senior development roles, Atairgin Technologies and Centaur Pharmaceuticals
senior scientist to senior dir., US head, Int'l Project Mgmt., Hoffman-La Roche