Dendreon’s New Operations Man, Hans Bishop, Aims to Keep Provenge Trains Running on Time
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But yes, I’m looking forward. I’m a great admirer of any organization that shows resilience, and the team at Dendreon has clearly shown resilience [with the FDA delay of Provenge in May 2007]. It’s a great test of any organization’s core strength.
I’m also hugely complimentary of the work that’s been done to manage the supply chain. You’ll hear people say—and you referred to skeptics earlier—who say, “Oh, Provenge, it’s complicated.” If you’re a physician, this is how complicated it is. You put in a call to our call center to schedule a patient. Two days later, the activated cells arrive at your office. That’s it. Everything else in the supply chain process, we take care of all those different steps. I’m very happy about it.
X: What’s the biggest misconception out there about the company? Is it the manufacturing logistics question?
HB: I think that’s one. People think the doctors need to get involved in scheduling the apheresis [a procedure in which blood is drawn and filtered]. They don’t. The product is going to be very simple to use.
KS: You asked before about things that Hans might want to change, but there are also things we want to maintain. And as we grow from 190 to 450 people to 600 people, one of the things we want to maintain is the culture.
HB: I’m sure about that. What are we at now, 450 people? Of that, I’m certain that 90 percent come to work because of patients. When you have a foundation where the culture is that strong, we need to continue to focus on that. We need to make sure that will grow with us.
X: Will you get involved with managing the pipeline as well, or are you exclusively going to be focused on Provenge?
HB: That’s not my day job, but clearly that’s something that Mitch has the management team discuss vigorously. Yes, for sure, I’ll work on the pipeline.
X: Will the manufacturing facilities that you are building now be ready and equipped to make other products for clinical trials?
HB: Yes. Our next most advanced clinical program is Neuvenge. It uses exactly the same technology platform as Provenge, but applies it to metastatic breast cancer. It uses clearly a different antigen, but a similar delivery cassette. And similar manufacturing processes. And if we’re successful with Neuvenge, it will absolutely utilize the structures we are putting in place now.
X: Is that moving ahead in clinical trials?
HB: We hope to start a Phase 2 program later this year, or early next year.
X: Five years out, what are your goals personally, and for Dendreon as a company?
HB: The first priority is to meet the needs of patients. That will continue to be our first aspiration. From a business perspective, the twinkle in our eye is to build a company that’s a bit like [Summit, NJ-based] Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG). That’s a company that many of us on the management team greatly admire.
X: What did they do right that you admire?
HB: They did many things right. They successfully commercialized their first product. They made smart choices developing their pipeline. They have a great team. And they managed their growth outside of North America very successfully. It’s important to remember for Provenge that the opportunity outside of North America is probably three times bigger than the opportunity in North America. The rest of the world opportunity is very important. It’s several years away. We are focused on the U.S. launch and getting that right. We have no manufacturing capacity outside of North America, so it is several years away. But don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s an important opportunity.
X: How can it be three times bigger?
HB: The numbers work roughly like this. If you look at the epidemiology of the disease in the big five countries of Europe, it’s about the same size as North America. The normal rule of thumb—and this can be a bit off—when you scale up for the whole of Europe with Scandinavia, Central Europe, it’s normally about 2x what you see in the big five countries, or 1.5x to 2x. Total Europe has about 150,000 to 200,000 [patients with prostate cancer that has spread, and no longer responds to hormone-deprivation therapy]. Then you add Asia, Japan, which has about 100,000. And North America has about 100,000. So that’s how we get that number.
X: One last thing. How old are you?
HB: I’m 45. But I look younger, don’t I?