we’ve never taken any money from ven-
ture capital or private equity or anything of
the sort. We haven’t done any acquisitions
so far, nothing has turned our attention
that we should acquire. Who knows what
will happen in the future in that regard?”
When not pondering system problems
or company challenges, Gutman, who was
born and raised in Colombia, says he likes
to listen to classical music, cook and bake
(especially recipes learned from his moth-
er and grandmother), and read about
“John Adams is my favorite U.S.
president,” Gutman says. “When I was
reading 1776, halfway through the book
I thought we were not going to make it
– other than the fact that we’re here and
we did make it. It was amazing that this
AG Mednet’s office in Boston is on the
Freedom Trail, two blocks from Paul Re-
vere’s house. “And where I live, which is
just a few blocks down, I go through the
back of my building and I am where the
Tea Party took place,” he says.
C. David Nicholson, Ph.D., has been in pharma a long time. But when it comes to drug development, he is
championing new thinking, not old tricks.
Dr. Nicholson is a vocal proponent of
Allergan’s Open Science initiative. In this
system, Allergan looks at what’s going on
in R&D outside of its walls, pulling in projects to develop and commercialize.
And when it comes to appraising development possibilities, Dr. Nicholson has a
lot of expertise.
Trained as a pharmacologist, he served
as chief technology officer and executive
VP, R&D for Bayer CropScience from
March 2012 to August 2014; senior VP of
Licensing and Knowledge Management at
Merck from 2009 to December 2011; and
senior VP, responsible for Global Project
Management and Drug Safety at Schering-Plough from 2007 to 2009. From
1988 to 2007, Dr. Nicholson held various
leadership positions at Organon, where
he most recently served as executive VP,
R&D and was a member of the company’s
executive management committee.
Dr. Nicholson says he knew Brent
Saunders, CEO of Allergan, from the
Schering-Plough days. Saunders was
the one to recruit him to Allergan, at the
time when the company was Actavis Plc.
(Actavis acquired Allergan and changed
its name to Allergan.)
Although Open Science was initiated when Actavis acquired Forest, it was
brought up to scale in the wake of the
According to Dr. Nicholson, “It was a
very conscious decision to use Open Sci-
ence to build what we feel is an incredible
The strategy behind Open Science “is
there is so much more innovation going
on in the external world, outside the four
walls of any one company, that could pos-
sibly go on within the four walls of any one
company, no matter how big that compa-
ny is,” he says. “So what we wanted to do
was fish in the large external ocean, and to
collaborate very openly with the external
world, be it academia, be it biotech, be it
small or large companies in the therapeu-
tic areas that we’re interested in to build
Dr. Nicholson points to the metrics that
back up Open Science: 72 percent of the
world’s top 50 selling drugs are market-
ed by companies where they didn’t do the
original invention. “We’ve just shown that
open science is one very effective model
for R&D,” he says.
As Allergan’s chief of R&D, Dr. Nicholson works closely with Saunders, as well as
Bill Meury – the head of Allergan’s commercial division – and others “to play our
role in acquiring the molecules and building the pipeline,” he says.
“Open science is more than just licensing, it’s being a good partner, it’s outreach
to the companies that we’re collaborating
with, building good relationships, as well
as ensuring the work that we’re working on
is good quality science and likely to make
a difference in the lives of patients,” Dr.
Nicholson told Med Ad News. “My role is
to help build and create relationships with
our partners, help to motivate the fabu-
lous people that we have within Allergan,
to make certain that we have great leaders,
great team leaders, and make sure that
open science is embraced within the orga-
nization, which it absolutely is.”
According to Dr, Nicholson, 50 percent
of his job is leading science and 50 per-
cent “is leading the people and building
great teams and making them feel mo-
tivated and focused and understand the
Allergan has six “star” products in de-
velopment derived from its Open Science
program. These are Esmya, abicipar,
relamorelin, ubrogepant/atogepant, ce-
nicriviroc, and rapastinel.
Esmya is a progestin receptor agonist
for the treatment of uterine fibroids. “If
and when approved, it will be the first
oral therapy in the United States for the
treatment of uterine fibroids,” Dr. Nicholson says.
Abicipar is a long-acting VEG-F that
has completed Phase III for age-related
macular degeneration, one of the leading
forms of blindness. Dr. Nicholson says it
differentiates itself from related agents
because of its duration of effect. “People
will have to be injected in the eye much
less often with it than the present available therapy, which will be important for
patient compliance and effectiveness of
treatment,” he says.
Relamorelin is being developed for
the treatment of diabetic gastroparesis.
“There hasn’t been an agent approved
in this therapeutic area for 30 years,”
he says. “Relamorelin looks effective in
Phase II and we’re starting in Phase III
later on this year.”
Ubrogepant is in Phase III clinical
trials and atogepant is in Phase II for
the treatment of migraine. “It’s a real innovation and an area of unmet need,” Dr.
Phase III trials have just begun for
ce-nicriviroc, which is an agent for NASH
Rapastinel is a rapid acting antide-
pressant. “Most antidepressants, it takes
four to six weeks to show efficacy,” Dr.
Nicholson says. “Rapastinel in Phase II
studies worked within hours, and in patients who hadn’t responded to previous
therapy. It could be a huge breakthrough
in the treatment of depression.” The drug
is now in Phase III clinical trials.
According to Dr. Nicholson, he sees
Open Science as the future of pharmaceutical R&D, due to a number of factors.
“There’s always challenges,” he says.
“R&D is difficult. R&D is nutty, that’s
why the industry spends so much money.
Clearly as I described my career, I’ve been
in the industry for a long time, I’ve run discovery operations as well as development
organizations, as well as the whole of R&D.
And for me, given the present ecosystem
within the industry, with a blossoming
venture capital startup environment, open
science is the next evolution in the way we
do run R&D in healthcare.”
Some companies may struggle to insti-
tute an Open Science model, due to the at-
titude of “not invented here.” But that was
never the case at Allergan.
“One of the advantages that we have
here at Allergan is that we have a very
small research organization and a large
development organization, and the de-
velopment organization is dependent on
open science to build the development
pipeline,” Dr. Nicholson says. “So if any-
thing we have the reverse of the “not in-
vented here” syndrome. The balance of
scientists here want to pull in innovation
from the outside world.”
For Open Science to work best, how-
ever, “you have to make sure you have
scientific expertise within the company to
recognize, to identify the best opportuni-
ties in the external world,” Dr. Nicholson
says. “You do need to make sure you have
high-quality M.D., Ph.D. scientists who
are capable of doing that within our ther-
apeutic areas. That’s what we have, and
we have spent time and effort ensuring
that we have that.”
As a head of R&D, Dr. Nicholson be-
lieves in the power of teamwork.
“You need people who enjoy team-
work, who truly recognize that R&D in
the pharmaceutical industry – I call it a
team sport,” he says. “You need so many
disciplines, you need to be able to collab-
orate internally, work collaboratively ex-
ternally, so you need great scientists who
love working as team members. And to
be honest, that’s always been one of the
things that’s attracted me to the industry
and why I’ve enjoyed it so much, the op-
portunity to work with great people from
different scientific disciplines.”
As for anyone getting their master’s or
Ph.D. who wants to work in pharma, Dr.
Nicholson has a few words of advice:
“If they’re any good, come work at Al-
On a more serious note, he adds, “As
I’ve said, I joined the pharmaceutical
industry and I haven’t regretted it for a
minute. And there are people of course
who have had fabulous careers in aca-
demia and in small and large companies.
C. David Nicholson,
Executive VP and
Chief R&D Officer,
C. David Nicholson