Guardant nabs chief commercial officer from Gilead as it preps more 'liquid biopsy' rollouts

From Gilead to Guardant isn’t much of a leap in the alphabet, but it’s a big jump in the pharma industry for Chris Freeman.

Freeman, who led Gilead’s HIV business for years, joins Guardant Health as chief commercial officer as Guardant readies more liquid biopsy diagnostics, including testing for colorectal and breast cancers.

“I’ve been attracted to companies in my career that take big risks in areas of unmet need,” he said. “While working on HIV is obviously incredibly important from a therapeutic point of view, a lot of the work already has been done.”

Freeman was introduced to Guardant last year when he was working to launch Gilead’s COVID-19 treatment Veklury (remdesivir). He was intrigued by the diagnostic maker's precision medicine mission, startup mindset and broad potential.

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The cancer diagnostics company’s “technology has the potential to treat the entire continuum from screening to treatment selection to treatment monitoring. That potential is incredibly exciting,” he said.

Freeman's new job will evolve with the growing company, but for now he oversees sales, marketing and commercial management of Guardant 360, CDx, Response and Reveal products and future expansions. Guardant has a separate team developing its screening diagnostics, he said.

Guardant’s 360 CDx test was recently approved in May as the companion diagnostic to Amgen’s Lumakras, a newly approved treatment for advanced non-small cell lung cancer. That green light came just one week after a nod pairing the test with Johnson & Johnson’s Rybrevant, also in non-small cell lung cancer. 

While Freeman’s work at Gilead included consumer marketing and advertising for its portfolio of HIV medicines, Guardant needs to lay more groundwork with healthcare providers and insurers to make sure the tests are available first.

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“At some point, I expect at Guardant we will have a more direct communication to the patients—they’re a critical stakeholder,” he said. The goal will be to make sure patients are not only aware of the precision medicine technology but also how it could help them take a more proactive stance in their cancer care.

While Guardant isn’t scrambling to catch up after a pandemic-induced decline in diagnostic testing, as some pharma companies are, it is engaged in an ongoing fight for recognition—and payment—for cancer patients’ comprehensive genetic testing.

Guardant's goal is to deliver a “blood-first approach” for oncologists and get more cancer patients access to genetic information about their tumors.

“If you want best-in-class care, with the number of genetic mutation targeted therapies out there, there’s no way to do that without the full genetic profile,” he said.