Shorla Oncology – Q&A with Tracy Woody

Welcome to the Shorla Oncology Board, Tracy Woody

Tracy Woody, Executive Vice President of Protagonist Therapeutics, talked about her experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, discussed her new relationship with Shorla Oncology and offered advice for female leaders pursuing a career in the pharmaceutical field.

Q) Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I started my career at Pfizer in New York City which was an incredible experience as well as wonderful place to live. I moved from New York City to the Bay Area and have been back and forth from North Carolina to California over the past 12 years. Although the majority of my work is focused in the Bay Area, I currently reside with my family in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Q) Tell us about your career and pharma experience?

At Pfizer, I worked on a number of different brands, but my main focus with what we called the CNS team. From Pfizer, I was recruited to work for ALZA, where I was the Director of Marketing. Initially, I worked in the overactive bladder space, but then I moved over to launch the first-ever long-acting ADHD drug.

Although I enjoyed my experience and learned so much about the industry at Pfizer and at ALZA, I realized that I wanted to focus my career on mid-size or small pharma companies. Since leaving ALZA, I have worked on the executive teams for a number of small companies, including Greer Laboratories, NextWave, KemPharm, and Versartis. These companies covered a range of therapeutic categories.

I am currently Executive Vice President of Commercial Strategy at Protagonist Therapeutics, a public company located in Newark, Calif. Prior to COVID-19, I spent a lot of time at Protagonist and a couple of other small companies in the Bay Area.

Back at home, I try to tap into the great resources and talents that surround me at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I have had the pleasure of mentoring five women from UNC and currently have two interns that work for me, one from the business school and another focused in science. Mentoring and encouraging women who want to work in pharma or other STEM field is important to me.

In addition to my leadership role at Protagonist, I am a board member of Esperion Therapeutics. 

I also am excited to have joined the board of Shorla Oncology, as well.

Q:) How did you hear about Shorla Oncology?

I was introduced to Shorla Oncology by David Tierney, who was on the board at KemPharm where I was Chief Commercial Officer. I found Shorla’s platform interesting because of my experience with 505(b)(2) pharmaceutical products but also found the business plan compelling. I was extremely impressed with Shorla’s tenacity and the achievements they made including their Series A funding round.

Q) Why are you passionate about rare diseases?

There are two reasons. First, while the industry has made incredible progress in rare diseases, only 5 percent of rare diseases have an approved treatment option. However, we continue to see science evolve, and today there are more than 770 drugs approved by the FDA. Working in rare diseases gives you the unique opportunity to see the disease from the perspective of not only patients but also of their family or support system – you see how everyone’s life could improve as a result of new treatment options.

Second, the Orphan Drug Act (ODA) provides companies with incentives to invest in R&D for rare disease. This process can be very challenging, but it also offers tremendous opportunities to bring both help and hope to patients who need it most, and it’s important for rare diseases to get the attention that they deserve.

Q) Why prefer working with small to mid-size pharma companies?

I am so grateful for my time at Pfizer and the opportunity to work with amazing colleagues and the opportunity to work on some amazing treatments. However, I have found that working in small companies allows me to wear many hats and get involved in all aspects of the business. For example, at Protagonist I have the opportunity to lead efforts in IR and PR but also have a seat at the table with the clinical development team. I can be on a call with analysts and investors for part of the day and then working with regulatory experts discussing clinical trial design the other part of the day. I enjoy this! It’s always “stretching” me to think and plan differently.

Q) What excites you about the future of Shorla Oncology?

The founders of Shorla, Sharon and Orlaith bring proven success to the table. I am thrilled to be part of the incredibly talented and accomplished leaders they have assembled. Sharon and Orlaith were able to attract leading executives from top global corporations who are dedicated to the success of Shorla. I am honored to be in the company of this group. I am also excited about the products Shorla are developing. These products have the potential to serve pediatric and adult patients in the U.S.

Q) What advice would you give to other female leaders?

I will start my advice with a quote from Joseph Campbell: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

Personally speaking, the “caves” that I feared have been the role that seemed too big, the areas where I had little experience, or the jobs that required the most sacrifice.  These endeavors were not always successful – thankfully, some were – but they were the ones that ended up being the most fulfilling and allowed me to grow the most.

I think like a lot of female leaders, I often feel overwhelmed and exhausted. To tackle those feelings, I have set a few non-negotiables. One example is driving my son to school each morning. I work primarily on West Coast hours, and one benefit is that I get to drive my son to school. There are very few days that I allow my work to take that spot.