5 Questions with Jennifer Butler, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Innate Pharma U.S.

“5 Questions With……” is a new BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people in the BioHealth Capital Region to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. We’re happy to have Innate Pharma’s Jennifer Butler as our 3rd guest.

Jennifer Butler was appointed Executive Vice President and General Manager of Innate Pharma US Inc. in March 2019.

Prior to her appointment, Ms. Butler served as Chief Business Officer, Chief Commercial Officer and Head of US operations, responsible for global business development and commercial strategy at Tessa Therapeutics, a clinical-stage oncology company. She previously served for more than 10 years in various commercial and strategy roles with increasing responsibility at AstraZeneca/MedImmune across several therapeutic areas. Ms. Butler also previously worked in strategic healthcare consulting and as an analyst in Equity Capital Markets at Merrill Lynch.

Ms. Butler has more than 20 years of strategic marketing and commercial leadership expertise along with general management experience.

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1. What was your first job/role in biotech?

Right out of college, I wanted a role that gave me the pace of Wall Street and the opportunity to use my science degree. My first job was in the biotechnology group of an investor relations consulting firm, and it gave me a true education in capital markets. I was able to gain a unique perspective in working with companies and how they position themselves to raise capital, which has become invaluable throughout my career.

After six years of working as an analyst and consultant and relocating to the D.C. area with my husband, I landed my first “in-house industry job” at Emergent BioSolutions as a senior market research analyst.

2. What can you tell us about your current role and company?

I am the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Innate Pharma U.S. – a commercial-stage oncology biotech company. We are focused on monoclonal antibodies designed to stimulate anti-tumor activity of NK cells and other cells of the innate immune system.

Innate is based in Marseille, France, and we celebrated our 20th-anniversary last year. I came on board in 2019 to rapidly build a commercial infrastructure and U.S. footprint following Innate’s acquisition of a hairy cell leukemia medicine. The drug is FDA-approved and was originally developed by AstraZeneca/MedImmune and National Institutes of Health. We’re really pleased that we selected Rockville, Maryland as our U.S. headquarters and are part of the BioHealth Capital Region community.

3. What do you think is the biggest gap in this industry, and how would you suggest closing it?

Trust. There is a huge opportunity for biotech and pharma to better address trust between patients and our industry at every level. Starting with clinical trials, it is incumbent on industry to think about how we can better engage underrepresented communities. I see tremendous potential for creative solutions that take a local, community-based approach to improve diverse patient recruitment. This is just one example, but a powerful one if we successfully address it.

4. What advice do you have for somebody looking to get into your field in this industry?

For those looking to pursue business strategy or operational roles, I recommend gaining as much experience as possible across different roles and different therapeutic areas, and not being afraid to take an unconventional path to your goal. If you are an “outsider” looking to break into an in-house role, the key is being able to showcase your skill set in a way that the hiring manager can see your value to the organization on the inside. Don’t let people define you by what you haven’t done; show how an outside perspective or different career choices can benefit the industry and embrace your unique attributes.

Innate has benefitted from hiring individuals who not only have oncology, or more specifically hematology-oncology, backgrounds, but also those who have worked within the rare disease space. We’ve hired a mix of individuals who have worked at large pharma companies, as well as those who come from smaller, start-up companies. It allows us to collectively apply the best solution and ideas to the problem in front of us rather than relying on the solutions that have worked in the past.

5. What is the most interesting place you traveled for a job and why?

In one of my first industry roles, I traveled to Delhi, India for a biodefense conference to highlight my company’s anthrax vaccine. Inside the convention hall, I had my little booth with my vial sample inside an acrylic cube, brochures and business cards neatly displayed, while outside the hall companies and countries were showcasing fully armored tanks and defense systems. Needless to say, the tanks got more foot traffic than my booth.

Thanks to Jennifer Butler for participating in the ‘5 Questions with BioBuzz’ series and stay tuned for more interviews with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region.

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