An alum of the 2004 SMDP Biotech Scholar cohort, Fernando Cruz-Guilloty, is the Director, Oncology - Precision Medicine & Diagnostics at Janssen R&D. As the Lung Franchise Lead, Fernando oversees the overarching Diagnostics (Dx) strategy for the Amivantamab (EGFR-MET bi-specific Ab) program in biomarker-selected populations of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) and other solid tumors.
He collaborates with key stakeholders, develops and executes precision medicine strategies to enable registration of pharmaceutical assets, leading a high-performing cross-functional team.
What is the highest degree you have earned and what can you tell us about your academic path?
Ph.D. I obtained a B.S. degree in Biotechnology from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez and a Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School. followed by postdoctoral studies at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami. I pursued an academic career in the hopes of starting my own lab studying the role of the immune system in diseases such as cancer and autoimmune disorders. However, after the path to a faculty position closed for me, new opportunities came my way in the industry setting.
Where do you work now and what is your company about?
I work at Janssen, the pharmaceutical arm of J&J. At J&J, we follow our Credo, focusing on patients and their caregivers, our employees and the communities we serve. As part of the Oncology therapeutic area, our aim is to eliminate cancer.
How did you first learn about the company?
From the Consumer products we all know, such as Tylenol and Listerine! But Janssen is famous for delivering life-saving medicines across diverse therapeutic areas, including developing one of the first vaccines against COVID-19. In terms of Oncology, Janssen has prioritized the development of targeted therapies, which is my main area of interest in drug development.
What do you like most about the company?
I love how committed everyone is in putting the patient first, while also sharing a collaborative and daring spirit searching for novel treatments. At J&J I am also able to enjoy a great work/life balance, and the company is fully behind their efforts in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.
What skills make you successful in your role and why did you choose this role?
My scientific mindset and technical knowledge in assay development is critical for my role, but perhaps my leadership and interpersonal skills drive my success. I lead a cross-functional team of Precision Medicine experts to support our compound development teams, and it requires a lot of influencing the decision making process. I chose this role because it allowed me to combine a lot of my previous experience in a high visibility role supporting a very special drug that has the potential to cure many cancer patients.
How do you define success?
Success is achieving my goals and objectives through hard work, but also creating and enjoying a fun environment where everyone feels welcome and heard.
What's the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
Knowing that we can provide hope to seriously ill patients. Having a direct impact on patient lives is truly an honor.
What advice do you have for students and job seekers?
Network, network, network! You also must be a good listener and make sure that you learn as much as possible from any experience so that you can take that into your next role while continuing to grow. Don’t get married to a specific project, as you don’t know exactly what the future will bring in terms of career opportunities but do find a career that keeps you interested and motivated, not just a job or a given title.
What book did you read last?
My favorite book, Rayuela, which I try to re-read at least every couple of years.