ELITE 2020 Entrepreneur Thomas Bock of HeritX Inc. and Columbia Business School

Thomas Bock

Founder and past CEO, HeritX Inc.

Chairman, Healthcare Advisory Board, Columbia Business School

Working Towards Cancer Prevention

One million people in the U.S. are estimated to have a BRCA mutation, the carriers of which face an up to 90% risk of five different cancers. Additionally, they can pass this risk to their children. These are urgent and dramatic needs that Thomas Bock, MD, MBA took to heart when his wife was diagnosed with two inherited BRCA cancers in 2012, threatening not only her life, but the lives of their three children. Having worked in medical oncology and the biopharmaceutical industry for more than two decades, Thomas knew the dire need for therapies that prevent—not just treat—cancer.

Along with his wife, also a physician, they founded HeritX to achieve cancer preventive therapies, starting with BRCA cancers. In less than five years, the HeritX team has created the largest cancer prevention R&D pipeline worldwide. It includes 10 programs pursuing different scientific mechanisms of action, including pre-cancer vaccines.

“The traditional drug development process is a sequential one from idea to FDA approval, where one phase is worked on after another—and slowed down by long breaks for decision making,” Thomas explains. “In contrast, we at HeritX are working on all R&D phases simultaneously, which speeds up the R&D process.”

While Thomas is now focused on preventing cancer, he previously spent his career innovating oncology treatments. As Global Head of Medical Affairs at Alexion, he helped develop Soliris (eculizumab), the first available, life-saving treatment for patients with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) and atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). He also helped build the cancer medical departments at Novartis and Celgene, and develop paradigm-changing medicines like Gleevec (imatinib), the first cancer precision medicine to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and GIST, a gastrointestinal cancer, as well as Revlimid (lenalidomide), which turns multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer, into a chronic disease with much extended survival rates.

“I strongly believe that patients not only are but should be treated as the most important customer in healthcare,” Thomas adds. “Therefore, true healthcare leaders—individuals or companies—must create meaningful impact for both patients and investors. This remains my personal goal for each of my current and future endeavors.”

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