For years, Sara worked in a hospital, making care possible for others. Now, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she was the one in need of care.
Chris Learn, Ph.D., PMP, recently joined Parexel as Vice President, Head of the Cell and Gene Center of Excellence. As a burgeoning area of research with expectations of great promise for patients, Chris will be responsible for ensuring that Parexel is enabled and positioned to effectively meet the cell and gene therapy needs of our clients. During Chris’ first week, we asked him to share his professional experiences, his expectations for leading the Center of Excellence, and his inspiration behind his work.
Could you tell us about your experiences in healthcare and clinical research?
I’m a clinical research scientist with more than 20 years in clinical operations and clinical development. During my career, I’ve gained experiences working in academia, pharma, and clinical research organizations (CROs) and have focused on early phase oncology and genetic disease, biomarker discovery, diagnostic development, clinical site management, clinical trial strategy, planning and operational conduct. I’ve had the privilege of helping five transformational products receive market authorization and I’m looking forward to continuing to bring more novel therapies to market for more patients.
How were you inspired to start a career in clinical research?
As a teenager, I was a caregiver for my father, who was diagnosed and suffered with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma for several years before his passing. Later in life, my mother developed vascular dementia and I also became her primary caregiver. These experiences gave me a first-hand perspective into the lives of those with debilitating, life-altering illnesses and it instilled in me a deep passion for patients as well as a sense of urgency to accelerate new therapies.
At Parexel, we do everything With HeartTM. What does that mean to you and how to you plan to model this in your role?
Any diagnosis can be terrifying and for patients involved in cell and gene trials the commitment to participate is enormous, intensive and long-term. From this perspective, I think it’s important for patients to know that it’s okay to not be okay and there is more to their story on the other side of their strength. Being able to capture and understand their perspective — not just as a patient, but as a person — and use their insight to guide my decisions is what it means to work With HeartTM.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
I’m excited about the opportunity to build the foundations already established and further develop a strong cell and gene community at Parexel where we’re able to learn from each other and serve the needs of patients. Because this area is still in its infancy, cell and gene can often feel like an academic endeavor, which isn’t for everyone. However, cell and gene therapies present legitimate opportunities for a better quality of life and even cures for some patients. I look forward to our team never taking no for an answer and being at the table together when the time comes to make a difference for patients.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I am a dad with two teenage daughters, who are the center of my universe. I’m also Sicilian, so I love to cook and spend time in my garden. I also love the football club, Real Madrid.
Chris will be participating in the Annual VIEW at the Patients as Partners Conference on April 28. The View @PatientsasPartners provides an interactive interview segment to challenge and address how we can truly reduce the burden to patients in clinical trials. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn if you’d like to meet with him in-person at the event and to stay informed of the latest developments from the Cell and Gene Center of Excellence at Parexel.
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