“I’ve been fortunate to plot my career journey unknowingly,” says Pam Garzone, PhD, who arrived at Scripps Research in May 2019 to fill the key role of chief medical officer at Calibr.
She says this with a laugh, recognizing that her decades-long journey—with twists and turns through the academic and for-profit realms of drug development—has prepared her almost impossibly well for the job she has now taken on. She also recognizes that although her prior job titles have varied, one common thread is evident throughout: patients are her driving force.
Most recently an executive at Pfizer, where she guided early-stage cancer medicines into clinical development, Garzone is now helping Calibr bring multiple drug candidates through early-stage human trials.
Calibr’s pipeline includes the potential osteoarthritis therapy KA34—the most advanced of Calibr’s drug candidates—and two novel cancer therapies: a bispecific antibody for prostate cancer and a “switchable” CAR-T therapy that could potentially be a universal approach for treating many different tumor types. Within two to three years, up to five more programs rooted in discoveries made at Calibr and Scripps Research are expected to advance to clinical trials.
And Garzone is at the center of it all. Based in Calibr’s state-of-the-art headquarters complex in La Jolla, California, Garzone brings expertise in designing patient-centric clinical trials and working hand-in-hand with regulatory agencies to ensure that potential new drugs can move as swiftly as possible to the people who need them most.
Garzone shares that she was initially drawn to Calibr out of a long-standing respect for the science at Scripps Research: “Being close to that science was a big motivator for me to explore this avenue,” she says. But she was equally intrigued by Calibr’s nonprofit drug development business model. She realized that the job of chief medical officer would give her the opportunity to pursue the aspects she loved most about working in industry and academia.
“Calibr is this ideal environment for me in that it combines the spirit and hunger of biotech to bring drugs to patients as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Garzone says, “with the freedom of a nonprofit to go after the unmet patient need—even if the drug isn’t going to be a blockbuster.”
She’s alluding to several medicines that Calibr is advancing in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to treat neglected tropical diseases including malaria, tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases. These are indications that big pharma typically shies away from.
“It’s professionally gratifying for me to be able to contribute to these programs,” says Garzone, an avid scuba diver who recently relocated to San Diego from the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and son.
In November, Garzone will travel to University of Pittsburgh—her alma mater and past employer— to receive the 2019 School of Pharmacy Distinguished Alumni award. The honor goes to one individual per year who has “shown exemplary achievements over the course of their career.”
“Pam’s background and skillset couldn’t be more ideal for what we’re seeking to accomplish here at Calibr—both in terms of our mission to create new medicines for diseases with serious unmet need and our near-term goals to move drug candidates into clinical trials,” says Peter Schultz, PhD, president and CEO of Scripps Research and head of Calibr.
In addition to her professional work, Garzone is a passionate supporter of women in STEM and plays an active volunteer role in the nonprofit organization Women in Bio. “I’m a strong believer in giving back,” she says.
TITLE: Chief medical officer, Calibr at Scripps Research
INDUSTRY HIGHLIGHTS: Vice president of Pfizer’s early clinical oncology group; senior director of clinical development at Elan Pharmaceuticals, where she designed and led more than 20 first-in-human studies of novel compounds
ACADEMIA HIGHLIGHTS: Associate director, University of Pittsburgh Center for Pharmacodynamic Research; assistant professor, University of Pittsburgh Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics
EDUCATION: PhD in Clinical Sciences, University of Pittsburgh; MS in Pharmacy Practice, University of Pittsburgh; BS in Pharmacy, Purdue University
Calibr, the drug discovery and development division of Scripps Research, was founded on the principle that new medicines can be created faster by pairing world-class biomedical research with advanced technologies and clinical expertise. Here’s a look at what makes Calibr different.
Calibr has created a broad therapeutic pipeline extending from early stage discovery through clinic-ready programs, including candidate medicines for cancers, osteoarthritis, Lyme disease and multiple sclerosis.
Partnerships with organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and pharmaceutical companies AbbVie and Bristol-Myers Squibb extend Calibr’s capabilities and reach.
DEEP (LAB) BENCH
The 72,000-square-foot facility houses state-of-the-art instrumentation and over 100 interdisciplinary scientists with decades of industry experience.
The institute’s robotics platform, built around technologies first developed in the auto industry, allows scientists to rapidly screen thousands of compounds to find new drug candidates.
Calibr scientists built an extensive library of nearly all existing small-molecule drugs, called ReFRAME, to identify drugs that can be repurposed to treat major diseases.
Calibr scientists conduct first-in-human clinical trials of promising therapeutic candidates, applying their deep expertise to advance therapies from the lab to the clinic.