“I hope students aren’t afraid to take a chance.”
From the rolling fields of Shelbyville to the big pharma and big biotech board rooms on the Pacific Coast, Carol Giltner Gallagher has had a front row seat to some of the most dynamic changes in the pharmaceutical industry over the past two decades.
Her pathway to success, she contends, was paved at the UK College of Pharmacy.
“I’ve used my pharmacy education every single day of my career,” she said. “I was very fortunate that I went to UK because the faculty let me see the doors that were open. Once you walk through those doors, you realize there are so many pathways for you. And I hope today’s students aren’t afraid to walk through those doors – I hope they aren’t afraid to take a chance – because you don’t know where life will take you.”
Becoming active as a student a key to her success
Her story is tale that is as authentically Kentuckian as she is.
Dr. Gallagher graduated from Shelby County High School before attending Vanderbilt University for her first two years of undergraduate work. She transferred to the UK College of Pharmacy, where she became a leader within the College.
She was active in the College’s American Pharmacists’ Association Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) chapter and was elected National President of APhA-ASP. Dr. Gallagher also was President of her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, but it was her experience in organizing the College’s weekly convocation program that foreshadowed her future.
“I worked with Joe Fink to invite some of the leading industry experts of the time to campus,” said Gallagher. “That was a great experience for me and opened my eyes to what was happening in industry.”
Those experiences led Gallagher to pursue an industry internship with the National Pharmaceutical Council, where she worked for Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis as well as Eli Lilly.
After receiving both her BS and PharmD from the UK College of Pharmacy in 1989, Dr. Gallagher became a registered pharmacist and took a position as a sales representative for Pfizer in Dallas, Texas. Her chief product was Humulin, which was an leading-edge therapy at the time. Before long, she was promoted to Marketing Product Manager at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, Ind.
Though she was enjoying her experience with Eli Lilly, an emerging west coast biotechnology company had caught her eye. In 1993, Gallagher was recruited to Amgen in Thousand Oaks, Calif. to help the company become better known to pharmacists and at colleges of pharmacy across the nation.
She was tapped to lead the Amgen-sponsored Outcomes Institute, an innovative effort that called upon health care in a new, economic continuum. For years, practitioners failed to analyze the overall health savings of using a particular treatment. They simply looked at cost of a medication without taking into the account many other health-related factors that could be impacted by medication.
“The whole idea of ‘overall health savings’ was just starting to emerge,” Dr. Gallagher said. “The Outcomes Institute sought to dive deeper into pharmacoeconomics at a time when this conversation was just getting started.”
She was then recruited to Agouron Pharmaceuticals to work on Viracept, an HIV drug. For the first time, this opportunity provided Gallagher a foray into the public health world. Gallagher worked with people in jail and prisons to ensure that when they were released they would have a 30-day supply of their medication.
“I was able to learn a lot about those who were less fortunate,” she said. “It was a great educational experience.”
Dr. Gallagher would transition into cancer research and development work within Agouron Pharmaceuticals before moving to Idec Pharmaceuticals. This could probably be best described as the “merger portion” of her career, as pharmaceutical mergers – particularly in cancer biotech companies – dominated the industry.
“It was an interesting time,” Dr. Gallagher said. “I was working for Agouron and then Parke-Davis purchased us and then Pfizer purchased Parke-Davis. Then, I was working for Idec when we were merged with Biogen.”
The changing biotechnological landscape allowed Dr. Gallagher the opportunity to start working with venture capitalists as she sought out smaller companies where she could take a leadership role. She started with a small company in Atlanta, Georgia that was working in cancer. When that drug didn’t work in clinical study, they closed up shop.
She then traveled back west – this time to Seattle, Wash. – to serve as President and Chief Executive Officer for Calistoga Pharmaceuticals. Calistoga had developed a product that worked well in treating certain cases of lymphoma and leukemia.
Her work with Calistoga led her back to the UK College of Pharmacy. She collaborated with UK faculty member Penni Black. Dr. Black’s lab helped the company identify some interesting models that Calistoga used in developing clinical trials.
In February 2011, Calistoga was purchased by Gilead Sciences, a California-based biotech company. That merger has provided Dr. Gallagher with a chance to survey the landscape to find out what her next destination might be.
Dr. Gallagher is now a Partner at New Enterprise Associates, a diversified venture capital firm that invests in healthcare and high tech companies. She focuses on investing in companies that are developing therapeutics.
“This new role provides me an opportunity to utilize my scientific knowledge and my business knowledge to create a better future for patients,” she said. “That has been true about all of my professional experiences: I have worked every day to try to provide better care to patients.”
Frankly, that can be said about every UK College of Pharmacy graduate.