Hans Christian Rohde
Chief Commercial Officer, uniQure
Imagine that instead of treating your disease with a pill, you could fix the defects in your DNA and resolve the problem at its foundation. That future became a reality this past November when Dutch-based uniQure launched Glybera, the first gene therapy approved in the Western world.
Hans Christian Rohde, uniQure's new chief commercial officer, intends to bring Glybera to North America as well as usher gene therapy in to other therapeutic categories. And any time you want to change the standard of care, you're going to have educate the market, Rohde explains. “This is one treatment—and that's it. Gene therapy is a new paradigm in this market, so there are questions about efficacy and safety—and I think those questions need to be addressed very carefully.”
Carefully addressing those issues will require a strong communication plan. “There needs to be clarity of what gene therapy brings to the market,” says Rohde. “We will work very closely with thought leaders so there is aligned communication around the promise of this novel treatment.”
Today, that promise resides with Glybera, which treats lipoprotein lipase deficiency—an ultrarare orphan disease that affects one out of every million people. Sufferers of the deficiency have a flawed copy of a gene which breaks down essential fats. Glybera functions by way of a virus that infects muscles with a useable copy of the gene.
Rohde, who has spent 20 years in the industry, speaks five languages and has worked in seven countries for such companies as Novo Nordisk and Merck Serono. For him, uniQure's innovative platform and pipeline proved irresistible.
“It was a question of what the challenge was—and where my background and expertise could be adding value to an organization,” he notes. “I hope to establish a sustainable basis for introducing gene therapy. This is a unique opportunity to talk about paradigm shifts in medical care and an opportunity for patients who have had no treatments thus far.”