I wish that the pharmaceutical industry did a better job of educating the general public on the drug development process. My medical school classmates don’t really understand what I do for a living and have limited knowledge of how a drug is developed. We work in one of the most highly regulated industries in the world, but very few people know this or have a full appreciation for the complexities and challenges of our business. This is not an attempt to defend our Industry, but rather to help people understand what we do and the amount of resources needed to sustain the business.
Ihad the pleasure to interview Dr. Pharis Mohideen. Dr. Mohideen serves as Chief Medical Officer and is a member of DBV’s Executive Committee, responsible for continuing development efforts of the Company’s pipeline and bringing potentially innovative new treatments to patients, if approved. Dr. Mohideen brings nearly two decades of industry experience and a track record of multiple drug product approvals. Prior to joining DBV in July 2019, Dr. Mohideen served as Chief Medical Officer for Millendo Therapeutics, Inc., Vice President of Clinical Development at Shionogi Inc., and other clinical and medical leadership roles with Novartis International AG and Bristol Myers-Squibb. Prior to joining the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Mohideen was an attending physician and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Hawaii, department of internal medicine and served as an investigator on multiple pharmaceutical-sponsored clinical trials. Dr. Mohideen received his M.D., M.S. in human physiology and B.A. in biology from the University of Hawaii, as well as his M.S. in clinical investigation from Vanderbilt University.
Thank you for joining us Dr. Mohideen. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Inever envisioned or aspired being in the pharmaceutical or biotech industry. I always had an interest in research, but not specifically in clinical trials. During my endocrinology fellowship and while I was on staff as an academic/clinical endocrinologist, we conducted quite a few industry-sponsored clinical trials. During this process, I became very familiar with these studies so making the jump from an academic role to the pharmaceutical industry was not too difficult.
I spent the first 11 years of my career in “Big Pharma” where I learned about drug development and how to be a manager. I then joined a mid-sized Japanese company, motivated largely by personal reasons. I wanted to experience more of my Japanese cultural heritage and this seemed like a great way to do that. As it turns out, this company had never conducted a Phase 3 study outside of Japan and had extremely limited experience in the US. We had a high headcount but not a lot of resources. I ended up being their most experienced drug developer in the US. It was truly a “sink or swim” moment in my career.
The experience of leading a team and developing a Phase 3 program, for an indication for which I had no previous experience, was very challenging. Ultimately, we created a Phase 3 program that eventually led to approval of the drug (I left the company prior to approval). This experience transformed me into a supremely confident drug developer and leader. Without this experience, I do not believe that I would have been prepared to make the jump to biotech as a Chief Medical Officer.
I’ve spent the last five years as a Chief Medical Officer in biotech and feel very much at home. Coming full circle to this career path, when I resigned from my academic position, I met with the Chairman of the department (my manager’s manager) to thank him for the opportunity. When told that I was leaving to join “Big Pharma” his exact words were, “You will never make it in the pharmaceutical industry. You just don’t have what it takes”. As he had never worked for a pharmaceutical company, it was a very odd thing for him to say.
I’m pretty sure he was wrong.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
My family has lived with food allergies for the past 15 years and it has shaped our lives in a very profound manner.
During the first few weeks on the job, there have been times when I was literally at a loss for words when asked how or why I was at DBV Technologies. To be an integral part of a company with the sole purpose of improving the lives of patients with food allergies is simply amazing.
I have also had more than a few moments when flashes of insight come to me and I realize just how deeply food allergies have shaped me as a father and as a person. In some ways, I completely under-appreciated the impact food allergies have had on my life. You just adjust and adapt and do what you can, hoping that you have done enough. But you can’t always appreciate the choices being made or the longer-term impact.
What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
DBV Technologies has invested in a very comprehensive development program encompassing multiple trials across different types of food allergies, built around the science and technology of epicutaneous immunotherapy, or EPIT. Some of the studies are planned to run for up to 5 years. This was surprising to me and showed an incredible commitment to patients and science.
I was completely blown-away by the depth of our understanding and research into the proposed mechanism of action of EPIT led by Dr. Hugh Sampson, our Chief Scientific Officer.
I think it is a very rare situation where the company has such a deep commitment to generating long-term data and is led by a world-class scientist and physician committed to developing a deep understanding of the mechanism of action.
DBV is really committed to the science and pioneering ways to unlock the immune properties of the skin to potentially treat food allergies
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?
Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies and can cause potentially life-threatening allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Unfortunately, there has been no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved food allergy immunotherapy treatment options in the last several decades — leaving patients with avoidance as their only option.
We also recognize that safety is a top concern for patients and families when it comes to treatment for food allergy, since they feel the anxiety and burden of accidental exposure every day. This is why we need innovation in this space.
DBV Technologies’ investigational novel approach of applying microgram amounts of peanut protein to the skin via a patch to desensitize the body could prove to be very disruptive technology. Using the skin in this manner is a very different mode of therapy relative to current standards of practice. It is too early to know, but the longer-term results may provide additional information.
Additionally, our research has only scratched the surface of the patch technology as a platform to reach other therapeutic areas and indications. We may be in some very unexpected therapeutic areas in the near future. That is extremely exciting.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
The pharmaceutical industry is very hierarchical and there can be immense pressure to rise through the ranks. M.D. titles are almost universally defined across all companies i.e., Associate Director, Director, Senior Director, Executive Director, VP, etc.
It is very easy to get caught up in “climbing the corporate ladder” and very soon your priorities can get skewed. At my final job in “Big Pharma”, I attended a select Executive Training Session where an Executive VP of Marketing gave a speech that I will never forget.
He said that he had sacrificed a tremendous amount for his job. He detailed frequently missing birthdays and holidays while traveling in foreign countries. However, he made it clear that this was by design, a conscious decision. It was his choice and he wanted this to advance his career. It was well worth it to him. His message was to be sure that you are not rationalizing your time away from your family by the justification that you are “taking care of them.”
He said to ask yourself 3 simple questions.
- What do you want?
- What do you care about?
- Who do you want to be?
His message was clear: be aware of your choices and constantly reassess if what you are doing is the right thing for you at the time. I was shocked by this lack of political correctness and overt contradiction of the unspoken corporate mantra of giving everything to the company no matter what. I felt compelled to thank him after his talk and went up to him, but only managed to dribble out a few incomprehensive words of thanks.
The thought of an EVP saying something that open and honest was stunning.
I left that company about a year later and interviewed for a lower level position at a mid-sized Japanese pharmaceutical company, simply because I wanted to work with Japan.
You are a “healthcare insider”. Can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
I wish that the pharmaceutical industry did a better job of educating the general public on the drug development process. My medical school classmates don’t really understand what I do for a living and have limited knowledge of how a drug is developed.
We work in one of the most highly regulated industries in the world, but very few people know this or have a full appreciation for the complexities and challenges of our business.
This is not an attempt to defend our Industry, but rather to help people understand what we do and the amount of resources needed to sustain the business.
It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?
The US healthcare system is obviously extremely complicated and there are no simple or easy solutions. Medications and prices are only one part of the equation. It is not a solution and perhaps not even a step in the right direction, but the pharmaceutical industry should do a better job of educating the general public on what it takes to get a drug to market.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
One of my favorite books is “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”.
Aside from any religious or spiritual context, what struck me and stayed with me is the following passage: “Whatever we have done with our lives makes us what we are when we die. And everything, absolutely everything, counts.”
My interpretation of this passage is that everything that I do matters. All interactions that I have matter, and not just for others, but for myself as well. We can never fully appreciate the ramifications of our actions or interactions as we never get to see the full outcome or down-stream impact. A random act of kindness or the opposite action can have a domino effect that we usually never see.
It is just not possible to track-down the full impact of our actions. However, I try to have a mind-set that everything counts even if I do not see the end result (good or bad).
How can our readers follow you on social media?