Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Our honoree: Dr. Barbara Klencke
Position: Chief medical officer, Sierra Oncology, a GSK company
The company’s focus: Sierra is a late-stage biotech focused on targeted therapies for rare diseases. The company is developing momelotinib as a potential treatment for myelofibrosis, a rare type of blood cancer that impacts bone marrow.
GSK completed its acquisition of Sierra Oncology in July and purchased the company to build its hematology pipeline.
Klencke’s biggest wins: Klencke has played a vital role in recognizing the potential of momelotinib and creating the development strategy that could confirm its benefit for myelofibrosis patients with anemia.
“By advancing our mission with a ‘maverick’ mindset to succeed where others have failed, [Klencke’s] leadership and expertise allowed us to move the compound forward by designing the Momentum trial to address anemia — which would be an important patient benefit that is not addressed by any current, commercially available therapy,” her nominator says.
Her impact: For patients, the burden of myelofibrosis can be daunting.
“Some patients need weekly blood transfusions, while others require transfusions a couple of times a month. And these are full, long days in the clinic that include side effect-inducing medications and the potential for chronic health issues,” her nominator says. “[Klencke] and I have a shared sense of responsibility to these individuals. For [Klencke] these are ‘people’ — not ‘patients.’”
“Everything is a learning opportunity — learn to take advantage of the opportunities, good and bad, that come your way.”
Dr. Barbara Klencke
Chief medical officer, Sierra Oncology
With a deep knowledge about the impact of the disease on patients, Klencke is channeling her expertise into drug development results.
Why she’s inspiring: Combining compassion for patients with business-savvy acumen, Klencke strives to be a mentor and role model in her position — and works with a steadfast energy that’s contagious.
“Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with many leaders. [Klencke] is truly unique among them,” her nominator writes. “She is a rare and endearing combination of integrity, intelligence, experience, compassion and humility — a true ‘hidden gem’ who is more concerned about ‘outcomes’ than ‘outward appearance.’”
In her own words: “After nearly 20 years in the clinic with a career that included academic clinical research, teaching and patient care, I realized that the major changes in standard of care for cancer patients were the result of top-notch research and drug development sponsored by industry,” Klencke says. “The bonus of moving into biotech: the highly productive and collaborative environment, resources [and] great colleagues.”