Kelly Gelinne, our Associate Director of Marketing, sat down with Devin Welty, Ph.D., a Senior Consultant of Nonclinical and Clinical Pharmacology with Nuventra, to learn more about his experiences in drug development, favorite projects he’s worked on, and his advice for new scientists. Listen to Kelly’s interview with Devin above or read the transcript below.
Devin has more than 25 years of experience in preclinical and clinical pharmacology. He has extensive experience leading organizations and project teams from early discovery to approval and commercialization. Most recently, he served as the Global Head of DMPK for Shire. He has supported the successful submission of dozens of INDs, CTAs, NDAs, MAAs, and BLAs for molecules, biologics, and gene therapy therapeutics. He has extensive experience in pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, systems pharmacology, and adopting model-informed approaches for candidate nomination and efficient clinical pharmacology strategy.
What is your favorite project you’ve worked on at Nuventra, so far, and why?
Devin: That’s a good question and it took me a while to determine which one I’ve enjoyed the most. This one is from a small company. It was a spin-off of a university professor’s work in Spain. I think the reason why I like it is because it’s a good idea; it’s a therapeutic that will help meet a critical medical need for a patient population in end-stage renal disease who are on hemodialysis. They suffer from painful skin lesions and heart problems that this therapeutic treat and will improve the quality of their life quite a bit.
I think one of the other reasons why I really like working with this client is because it’s a small team. They are very focused, they’ve done a great job with the biology, and they realized that they really needed to bring in people that could help them with the development sciences. They’ve conducted their studies well, they’ve obviously taken good advice, and they’ve executed on that. Currently, they’re entering Phase 3 clinical trials and it’s really exciting to see that this therapeutic does seem to be helping people and I can see it eventually becoming an important addition to medical practice and this company being successful
What major changes do you predict in drug development in the next couple of decades?
Devin: I think that’s a great question. From when I started, we were working on treatments that would treat the symptoms of diseases more than curative therapies. Now, we’re moving more into actual curative therapies like gene therapy, and I think it’s a real game changer. I think of the very first direct gene therapy that was put on the market by Spark Pharmaceuticals—again, a small company—called LUXTURNA®, and it was fascinating to see how it has impacted people’s lives from being unable to see first, at night, and then going completely blind, to being able to ride their bike at night and knowing that their future would still have their vision. That’s really exciting.
And I think with the number of treatments that the FDA and EMA are beginning to see in gene therapy, it’s clear that this is a big change for the future of the pharmaceutical industry. In terms of how we develop those drugs—the gene therapies—the interesting thing is that we need to be able to predict efficacious doses in patients, and sometimes those are children, as the very first dose. So, as a pharmaceutical industry—especially for a company like Nuventra that is so involved in modeling and simulation—this is where I think the biggest developments will come from. Being able to predict what those efficacious doses will be from the very get-go and those will be the biggest advances and changes in the pharmaceutical industry.
What advice would you give a new scientist entering this industry?
Devin: I look back to my advisor in graduate school, Dr. John Wood at the Medical College of Virginia. His advice to his graduate students was always to understand the fundamentals of your science because technology will completely change how we go about doing our job, but understanding the fundamentals will always serve to be able to move with technology change. So, to new scientists, that would be my same advice. Always understand the fundamentals and be prepared for changes that will challenge how those fundamentals are put to use.
What do you enjoy about life as a consultant since joining Nuventra?
Devin: It’s been quite a transition for me, having always been on the sponsor side. I think the biggest benefit that I have seen being a consultant is the opportunity to see the diversity of ideas in scientists that are out there, which is sometimes hard to be able to recognize or realize working for a single proprietary company, because you’re so focused on projects within that company.
I’ve been really impressed with how many different ideas have come from all different disciplines that I would never have imagined, not having been exposed to them previously. It really gives you a good sense of the population of people out there that are looking for ways to improve human health and I think it’s exciting interacting with those people—learning about how they came up with their ideas and what their aspirations are in terms of helping patients.
Is there a therapeutic area you feel particularly passionate about working in?
Devin: The neurosciences have always fascinated me. At Parke-Davis, where I started in the pharmaceutical industry, I worked almost exclusively in the neurosciences area, and because of the team of people that I worked with there—the chemists, the pharmacologists, the bioanalytical people, the toxicologists—we were able to work so well together and we actually brought several therapeutics onto the market: NEURONTIN®, LYRICA®, and those were very successful.
One that wasn’t so successful was called COGNEX® for Alzheimer’s Disease and this is a disease which, for whatever reason, the pharmaceutical industry and academia have been unable to treat despite all of the investments and the good ideas. So, the challenge of trying to bring a therapeutic forward for Alzheimer’s Disease is something that I will always be interested in following and hopefully, in helping other clients bring their therapeutics to market.
Kelly: Alright, we always like to throw in one bonus question in our interviews to get to know you on a personal level, so I’d love to hear, what do you do in your free time?
Devin: Well, I love to hike and I am located in a place that invites hiking—Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s something that I did a lot with my dad and I still enjoy it very much. So, that’s the biggest part of my life besides working.
Kelly: That’s great. I hope you‘re able to still find some trails that are open during this time of social distancing. Well, thank you so much for your insights today, Devin, it was great having you.
If you have a specific question for Devin or another senior consultant, please don’t hesitate to contact us.