Defying convention has given Leon (Lonnie) O. Moulder Jr., ’97 (XP-66), the potential to change how biotechnology companies do business and, in the process, to treat and improve the lives of patients living with cancer. As the CEO of TESARO Inc., an oncology-focused, Boston-area biopharma company he cofounded in 2010, Moulder made an unorthodox decision that distinguishes his venture from other biotechnology startups: the company not only researches and develops new and meaningful medications, but also markets and sells these products throughout the world.
Prior to cofounding TESARO, Moulder was the CEO of Minnesota-based biopharma company MGI Pharma Inc. and built it into an integrated development and commercialization business that was acquired by a large Japanese pharma company for $3.9 billion. He also served as the president and CEO of another biotech company, Abraxis BioScience Inc., which discovered and marketed a widely used breast cancer drug.
Savvy investors had faith in Moulder’s leadership of TESARO—he and his partner were able to secure $60 million in startup funds to launch the company in 2010, followed by a $101 million venture round and a successful IPO in the two ensuing years. TESARO gave those early investors a reason to smile by delivering an approximate 400 percent return from its 2012 IPO and a multibillion dollar market capitalization. Having raised more than $2 billion via venture, equity, and debt financings to build an international infrastructure and advance six pipeline molecules, TESARO has received regulatory approvals in more than 30 countries for its first two medicines and is currently launching these products in the United States and Europe. TESARO employs approximately 800 people globally who are committed to positively impacting the lives of people living with cancer. “Our products help patients not only with the treatment of their cancer,” Moulder said, “but also in the symptoms associated with their cancer chemotherapy.”
A 1980 graduate of Temple University School of Pharmacy, Moulder began his career as a clinical pharmacist. Looking to break into the biopharma sector, he worked in sales and marketing at Marion Laboratories, founded by Ewing Marion Kauffman. While there, Moulder enrolled in the Executive MBA Program at Chicago Booth, feeling the need to stretch his thinking and experiences. He hoped interactions with business minds who could share new tools and guidance would take his aspirations to the next level. “People describe the Booth approach as teaching one how to think, not necessarily what to think,” Moulder said. “In business, I have been able to carry that forward—to learn by asking the right questions, listening, challenging and really getting to the truth.”
Moulder’s investment in himself and in the Executive MBA Program paid dividends. In 1999, he was hired as the executive vice president of MGI Pharma—the company he would eventually guide as CEO—propelling him on his path to cofounding TESARO. “I’m proud to be part of the alumni network associated with Booth. Wherever I go throughout the world, there’s great recognition of what Booth is, what Booth means, and the quality of people who have come from Booth.”
Moulder and TESARO cofounder Dr. Mary Lynne Hedley are co-recipients of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 National Overall Award. Moulder is also the chairman of Trevena Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, and serves on the boards of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization and the Fox Chase Cancer Center. Moulder is a member of the Council on Chicago Booth and the Polsky Council.
“The Distinguished Alumni Award is really a recognition of what all the associates at TESARO do,” Moulder said. “This company is successful because of the many passionate, committed people who want to make a real difference and leave a legacy. At TESARO, we’re doing it in the field of cancer.”