Executive Perspective: Transforming Cancer Research through Collaboration and Innovation

Kamran Ansari, Senior Vice President and Head of Oncology Clinical Development & Operations at Pfizer in the greater Seattle area, shares his perspective on the importance of collaboration, the bright future of cancer research, and advice for growing a career in biotech.

Q: You came to Pfizer by way of its Seagen acquisition late last year. Tell us a little about your role within the Pfizer oncology team.

Ansari: My role encompasses Pfizer’s clinical operational execution, focused on developing potential breakthroughs for patients with cancer. My team is involved in clinical study operational execution from early phase development all the way through to registration and beyond. We work with institutions across the United States and throughout the world to provide equitable clinical trial access to patients, ensure diversity of participants, and conduct the studies at the highest level of quality and completeness, with the speed that cancer patients demand.

Q: How have your previous experiences at Sanofi, Merck, and Seagen informed your current work with Pfizer?

Ansari: I think the most significant point, and the most obvious one, is that all that we do is possible through working with great people, who share a passion for helping people with cancer live better and longer lives. We’re in a highly regulated industry, so it’s critical that we manage the complexity of drug development effectively for patient safety, which requires collaboration with people both next to you physically and across the world.

Since merging with Pfizer and coming back to a much larger organization, I appreciate that we have this wonderful union of two research organizations, with great people and advanced science that allows us to continue our focus on patients. We now have a great opportunity to do more for patients with a much larger infrastructure.

Q: What makes you hopeful for the future of cancer treatment?

Ansari: One of the things that has always resonated with me through various companies is that we’re not competing with the next biotech or the next large pharma company – we’re competing with cancer. What makes me hopeful is, now we’re in an ecosystem where data is emerging all the time, there are several exciting collaborations between research institutions and life science organizations happening, and we’re exposed to excellent science and new information. This is allowing us to be more thoughtful about our research opportunities and move even faster towards breakthrough cancer medicines that bring new hope to patients everywhere.

Q: Do you have advice for someone just starting out in their career?

Ansari: Two lessons I’ve learned that I wish I knew earlier in my career are:

It’s fundamental to take a hands-on approach to your professional development. When I first started my career, I always felt that if I worked hard, the universe would take care of me and everything would work out. I later learned that the universe has other priorities than my career development.

Early in my career, I viewed mistakes very negatively. Mistakes will happen. Welcome the learning from them and discard the emotional baggage. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned throughout my career. 

Q: How do you approach advancing your own career growth and knowledge?

Ansari: Carving out time for learning is critical. It’s easy to get caught up in the infinite amount of work we do. It’s important to carve out time to learn.

Seeking feedback along the way is also fundamental, making sure that what you intend to do resonates with peers, direct reports, and with your manager. Inviting continuous feedback is valuable as we all have blind spots and we all need coaches, no matter how far you are in your career.

Q: You’ve worked in a couple of locations across the U.S. – what makes working in Washington’s life science industry unique?

Ansari: I love that the network in Washington state is really tight across life sciences, and it’s always growing. I really do appreciate that.

Outside of the industry, the environment of Washington feels more focused on work and life harmony. We live in a beautiful area where you can work hard and then go bike, run, hike, ski, or go to so many beautiful places close by. It’s a great community and certainly a great environment to work in.

Interested in joining Kamran Ansari and making a difference in patients’ lives at Pfizer? Visit Pfizer’s careers page to view current openings and learn more.

Sponsored by Life Science Washington and Pfizer.