Four Questions with Daejin Abidoye: Following Science to Find Ways to Help People Living with Cancer

Stories@Gilead - December 02, 2020

From an early age, Daejin Abidoye always wanted to understand how things work. This lifelong curiosity led him to biology – specifically to study how the human body works – and eventually a career in medicine with a focus on oncology.

Daejin joined Gilead this year to serve as Senior Vice President of Clinical Research for the company’s oncology therapeutic area to strengthen and grow programs, as the company seeks to advance new medicines for people with cancer.

“I have always been fascinated by human biology – the interplay of complex chemical structures with unique enzymatic and molecular pathways,” says Daejin, “It amazes me how we use medicine and our knowledge of human biology to try to help when the body’s systems go wrong and people get sick.”

We connected with Daejin to learn more about his career path, his transition from academia to the biopharmaceutical industry and what excites him most about the future of oncology.

Q: As your medical training progressed, what attracted you to oncology and why did you choose to make it the focus of your career?
What first attracted me to work in oncology during my residency training, and what has continued to inspire me is the strong interpersonal and human component that comes with treating people with cancer.

In other medical specialties, the physician’s role often involves providing life-saving interventions within specific moments or situations. In oncology, my role is similarly impactful, although oftentimes prolonged and with a different outcome. We do our best to save lives, but another part of our job is preparing people with terminal illness for the inevitable, and helping to make the final road of their life-journey both comfortable and meaningful.

At the time of my residency, most oncology therapeutics were limited in efficacy, with many side effects, and patients often refused them. The need for more effective and tolerable therapies for cancer fueled my passion and career in clinical research, specifically around molecular pathways and immuno-oncology, which at the time were just beginning to show promise.

Q: After working for the first part of your career as a practicing physician, you transitioned to industry a decade ago. What led you to make this transition?
Throughout my career, I have always sought new challenges. In medicine, this translated into multiple research opportunities, including collaborations with pharma partners across breast cancer, lung cancer and other solid tumors during my training at the University of Chicago.

I joined Gilead earlier this year because I see the great opportunity to help patients with our evolving oncology portfolio. Our oncology program is in an incredible growth phase right now as we chart a new course. Here, we can have a real impact on what happens next, which makes it an exciting time to be at Gilead. Every voice counts and every opinion matters as we shape the future of Gilead’s oncology efforts. Our hope is that the medicines we research today will one day be available for patients in the ICU, the ER and in homes – and that symbolically keeps our presence in the room with the patient.

Q: You joined Gilead in July amid the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s it like to start a new role from home?
It has definitely felt surreal, and it’s made me realize how much we rely on social and emotional connections. There is no substitute for the boost you get from casual interactions, like when a colleague smiles at you as you’re walking down the hall. Social connections, while not quantifiable, are incredibly palpable. As we all work remotely, we feel deep connections to our work, but perhaps less so to one another. I’m really looking forward to the day when I can meet every member of our team in person.

Working from home has also been an adjustment for my family, as I can imagine it must be for so many others. That said, I’m grateful for all of the quality time together and for our health.

Q: What’s next and what excites you about the future of oncology?
We are building a formidable oncology portfolio, and I’m optimistic about the potential value it could bring to patients. But it’s not just about our pipeline, it’s about the people that come to work every day. I’m encouraged and inspired by the steps Gilead continues to take to make the company a great place to work – it’s what I want us to be known for.

As we continue to follow the science, it will only lead to even more innovative collaborations and partnerships. From our people to our partners, we are well-poised to bring about real and meaningful transformation for people with cancer, and this is what excites me the most.