W. Garrett Nichols, MD, says he is motivated by "building a team of passionate people who are empowered to do their best work in the service of improving survival of patients with cancer."
As a student, W. Garrett Nichols' first love was biology, and he says his decision to pursue a career in medicine was inherent.
"Becoming a physician was a natural way for me to apply that passion to the betterment of others," says Nichols, who in September took on the new role of chief medical officer at Candel Therapeutics.
Nichols received his medical degree and trained in internal medicine at Duke University before earning a master's degree in epidemiology and completing a fellowship in infectious diseases at the University of Washington, after which he was on faculty at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Head of Infection Control at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
He has served as head of clinical development at ViiV Healthcare, specializing in the development of therapies for HIV infection, and as CMO at Chimerix, where he led the development of Tembexa, an approved treatment for smallpox. He directed multiple global development programs at GSK, including the late-stage clinical trials and global regulatory submissions that led to the approval of Tivicay and its fixed dose combination product Triumeq for patients with HIV. His most recent CMO role before joining Candel was at Istari Oncology, an oncolytic viral immunotherapy company.
HealthLeaders asked Nichols to outline his strategy and expectations for his new role at Candel.
HealthLeaders: What is the biggest challenge you expect to face as the new CMO?
W. Garrett Nichols: With a robust slate of clinical trials in lung, brain, pancreatic, and prostate cancer, my initial focus is to ensure that we are executing effectively across the portfolio. Given that PrTK03 (Phase 3 study of CAN-2409 in prostate cancer) study is intended for registration, I also am planning ahead for the BLA to come.
HL: You have worked at both large and small pharma. Is this experience helpful in your new role?
Nichols: At GSK and ViiV Healthcare, I was fortunate to lead the cross-functional team that developed dolutegravir (an HIV integrase inhibitor) from phase 2 through phase 3, which culminated in global submissions and approvals for Tivicay and its fixed dose combinations, which are now preferred agents for the treatment of patients living with HIV. These positive clinical, regulatory, and pharmaceutical development experiences are transferrable to our goals here at Candel. Small companies, on the other hand, offer the opportunity to build a team and shape its culture, with a focus on innovation and creative problem-solving given the different resources that are deployable in small biotech.
HL: What keeps you motivated?
Nichols: Building a team of passionate people (both within and outside of Candel) who are empowered to do their best work in the service of improving survival of patients with cancer is the highest reward.
HL: What challenge is the industry currently struggling with and how do you solve it?
Nichols: Investment in early-stage development of promising but unprecedented assets remains a challenge. Public-private partnerships that target difficult-to-treat diseases are one tool in my toolkit. I am also always looking for opportunities to utilize creative designs that can demonstrate early proof of concept to stimulate investment from the private sector.
Robin Robinson is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.
Small pharma companies offer the opportunity to build a team and shape its culture.
Create designs that can show early proof of concept to stimulate investment from the private sector.