Company: Loxo Oncology
Title: Senior VP development strategy
Nisha Nanda clearly remembers the day she became interested in targeted gene therapy. She was 15 years old on a train reading an article in Time magazine about the future of cancer and how it would be possible to treat the disease by targeting genetic mutations. The idea intrigued her.
Fast forward to 2017, and Nanda heads development strategy at Loxo Oncology, a biopharma company focused on developing medicines for patients with genetically defined cancers.
Nanda began her career at Cor Therapeutics in San Francisco after earning her Ph.D. at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. When Cor was bought by Millenium, she moved on to several other small biopharma companies that were bought by larger ones, including Chemgenex, which was bought by Teva, and Onyx, which was bought by Amgen.
She was looking for another small company when she met Loxo founder and CEO Joshua Bilenker. In 2014, Nanda became the company’s third employee.
“We started with a small team with one molecule and now we have a company with a portfolio. We’ve proven we can do drug development in an innovative way, and we plan to keep doing more of the same and finding unmet needs in cancer,” she said.
At ASCO this summer, Loxo posted positive data for its experimental larotrectinib (LOXO-101), a tumor agnostic drug it hopes will treat an array of cancers in nearly a dozen sites across the body. The company is currently prepping for an FDA filing later this year or early next year. Loxo also has two follow-up candidates—LOXO-292 and LOXO-195—which target other cancer-causing genes resulting from fusions with kinase genes.
When asked what advice she would give to women coming up in biopharma, Nanda said, “I’ve had wonderful mentors, both male and female, and I think the best advice I could give is to not be shy. Ask for what you want and if you see an opportunity, go ask if you can be part of it. Be confident. I have two girls and that’s what I teach them, too.”