Pierre Cassigneul has been the CEO of new CHI member, XDx, since 2003. Prior to this he was a partner with the consulting firm, Stone Bridge. Formerly he was at BD as vice president diabetes management, where he led the company's efforts in entering the blood glucose monitoring market. Cassigneul also worked at Bayer where he was senior vice president and general manager of the diabetes business unit, at Ortho (J&J) where he was vice president and general manager of the AIDS and hepatitis business unit, and at Abbott where he held several U.S. and European general management and marketing positions. Cassigneul has a management degree from the ESC Reims.
Q: What changes can we expect in your industry in the coming years?
A: I think the biggest change is the advent of personalized medicine—finding the right medication for the right patient at the right time. Diagnostics companies in particular will take a prominent role in making that happen. The innovations on the horizon are promising to improve quality and lower cost of healthcare. Personalized medicine is helping physicians intervene earlier, keep patients healthier, rather than waiting until they are really sick to prevent and treat illnesses.
Q: What segment of your business do you see as the primary growth driver this year and next?
A: We focus exclusively on the autoimmune diseases and conditions, which include rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, lupus, and organ transplantation. Cancer is what attracts a lot of attention as far as personalized medicine, but immune system related conditions will continue to attract focus. If you look at the prevalence, The Lupus Foundation of America announced recently that 1.5 million people are affected by lupus, but unfortunately, no new drugs have been approved for that in 50 years.
We currently have one product on the market—Allomap. This is a blood test designed to aid in the assessment of rejection in heart transplant patients. This testing is currently adopted by about half the transplant centers in the U.S.
Q: Tell us about your latest research.
A: Lupus is our main area of research currently. The first program we have is a test we are developing on our own, a flare predictor, which will tell patients and physicians when the patient is about to flare. This is important because once a patient experiences a severe flare the person is subjected to constant doses of immunosuppressant therapy in hopes of avoiding future flares. This medication has a lot of dangerous side effects. So having a flare predictor will have two benefits: it will allow physicians to lower the dosage of therapy or eliminate it altogether when it’s not necessary, and increase it when they know there is an impending flare, to either eliminate the flare, or enable a less severe flare. In the most severe cases of lupus, which affect the patient’s kidney, the drugs used to treat that actually cause kidney toxicity, so allowing patients and physicians to manage that much more efficiently will result in better outcomes.
The second program we are working on is a collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb. They have a drug for rheumatoid arthritis called Orencia. They are trying to develop it now for lupus and we are developing biomarkers to target lupus patients who will be good responders for Orencia.
Q: Which companies do you view as your main competitors and what are your main competitive advantages?
A: No other company has a test like this on the market. The competitive advantages of AlloMap include providing transplant facilities with a non-invasive tool that provides personalized molecular information to aid the physician in the overall management of acute cellular rejection.
To date, all other procedures in use by physicians in assessing rejection are invasive and have side effects. An example of this is endomyocardial biopsy. Endomyocardial biopsy is invasive, provides only a histological assessment of rejection and has documented side effects.
What we now offer is a new piece of information for the physician that adds to their existing arsenal of tools. Providing a noninvasive blood test, which is highly accurate and provides the physician with new molecular information in the management of their patients moves medicine closer to a truly personalized nature.
Q: What do you hear from your customers about your products?
A: Patients love us because they can get a highly-accurate blood test that provides physician with unique information. Physicians, once they get used to using the test and see that this gives them very high certainty of absence of rejection, really like us. Payers like us because our test is much more cost-efficient than biopsy—our test costs $3,000.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: As a small business owner (XDx has 87 employees), a lot of things keep me up at night! The first thing is to make sure we become viable, the race to start making profits. The second is our studies that are ongoing—will they go the right way?
Q: What do you do to relax?
A: I’m a private pilot so I like to fly single engine aircraft.
Q: If your house were on fire, what would you grab?
A: You know, I have friend who was working at Abbott at the time and he had been on assignment in Tokyo—he came back and had all his belongings in a storage container that was stolen from the harbor in Miami. The one thing he said he missed most was the family photos. So I’ve taken all our photos and saved them to a portable hard drive that can fit in a shirt pocket and that’s the one thing, assuming my family is safe, that I would grab. Furniture you can replace but photos are irreplaceable.
Q: When you were young, what did you aspire to be as an adult?
A: I wanted to be a pilot—I was hoping to be a fighter pilot! I kept that in my heart and when we finished raising our kids, I became the pilot I am now.
Q: What are you reading?
A: I’m reading For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions by James Gaines. The author is an American journalist who lives in Paris and he’s writing about their unlikely friendship and their roles in the revolutions in their respective nations.
Q: How do you want people remember you?
A: I want everyone to remember me as a gentleman.