As a mathematician, biostatistician, and pharmacoeconomist, she entered the pharmaceutical and biotech space and spent years striving to build a bridge between science and business, which resulted in a number of successful alliances, partnerships and M&As. Later, she founded Aquavit to build a personalized drug delivery platform using big data, which proved to be the turning point for her journey ahead, and the reason why she is our top 10 most Influential Women CEOs this year. She is Sobin Chang: an innovator, a leader, and an inspiration who brings a wealth of expertise to management, marketing, and research in pharmaceuticals, devices, and biologics, proven by the well-recognized brand BOTOX® as well as a $7.5 billion oncology portfolio at Novartis.
Prior to Aquavit, Sobin led a multidisciplinary team of executives evaluating potential applications and values for new products at Allergan as Chair of the Portfolio Committee for BOTOX®. She was always recognized by her peers and by every organization of which she was a member for her influence with her innovative thinking, passion, and execution. She has a wide range of therapeutic experience, including oncology, dermatology, infectious disease, allergy and immunology, and neuroscience, which has resulted in over 25 patents and 60 publications. Her diverse background and adaptability also led her to serve at the FDA DDMAC (Division of Drug Marketing Advertising and Communications) providing guidance on the FDA Modernization Act.
Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Sobin moved to the US to study as an undergraduate and fell in love with what the country represented and everything for which it stood. She graduated magna cum laude with honors in Mathematics from the University of Missouri and moved to the East Coast to further her studies at the Yale School of Medicine. While at Yale, she taught several graduate-level courses, including Fundamentals of Clinical Trials.
Sobin was one of the first three recipients of Yale’s post-doctoral fellowship in pharmacoeconomics. Her four years at Yale provided her with a unique set of training from the Yale School of Law and Yale School of Management in addition to the core disciplines offered by the Yale School of Medicine in Public Health. These experiences led her to build a career at global pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Merck, and Allergan in research, commercialization, and strategy.
The Pharmaceutical Industry at a Glance
The pharmaceutical and biotech industries are very specialized and competitive. Most people require extensive education and experience in order to navigate the time-consuming and costly FDA approval process (on average, it takes over 10 years and one billion dollars to successfully bring a new drug to the market in the US). To make such large investments in new technologies and commercial strategies, companies must take calculated risks. Nevertheless, ultimately the new drug developments are made to be “one-size-fits-all” for average humans in size and condition because, from an economic standpoint, personalization is almost impossible.
The Inspiration and Incorporation of Aquavit
To pursue the dream of personalized medicine through predictive modeling using big data, Aquavit has spread its wings as one of the distinctive pharmaceutical companies established in 2010 and evolving into a renowned global business. Dedicated to research, development, and launching innovative solutions, Aquavit developed the first-of-its-kind, patented, personalized injection treatment optimizer, a smart compounding device, the first-of-its-kind personalized drug delivery platform, and state-of-the-art, AI-powered, big data analytics. Recently, the team developed a self-injectable vaccine that can be drop-shipped to places where access to clinicians is limited during a pandemic. This technology was well-recognized and received a fast-track approval of its patent by the USPTO.
“Our mission is to take our innovations to the end user as quickly as possible and optimize the positive outcome as a part of the cohort.”
Overcoming the Obstacles Along the Way
Being at the forefront of innovation has its challenges. At Aquavit, there have been unlicensed copycats of key innovations, seriously impeding their advancement. The US Federal Court recently awarded the company a damage amount of over $10 million against a counterfeiter and imposed about $8 million in sanctions on them.
“We take pride in all our inventions and innovations and these are unnecessarily painful steps we must take to continue to protect our product integrity, physicians, and patients,” Sobin firmly emphasized.
Aquavit: Achievements and Ways Forward
2023 is going to be a year of Aquavit’s several major milestones. The new botulinum toxin assets, Dermatox, Microtox, and Aquatox, will kickstart large-scale clinical trials. The American Academy of Dermatology, the largest dermatology conference in the world, will host the introduction of their new smart analyzer, Perfectionist I and II, which utilizes their big data platform.
The Aquavit team is actively engaged in machine learning, population health, and epidemiology, which has helped pave the way for their personalized medicine platform. Sobin believes that collaboration and shared learning are the best ways to accomplish this goal. She served as the opening keynote speaker for the Big Data in Pharma conference in Philadelphia. Their innovative strategy and tenacity, along with a global collaboration of researchers, medical professionals, and industry leaders, will help them achieve their dream.
Aquavit will keep growing and expanding over the course of the next five years on an unprecedented trajectory. The big data platform and the personalized delivery of medicine with a human touch will always remain their key focus, as pronounced in their company tagline: Science Personalized, Healthcare Modernized.
On a personal level, Sobin pursues lifelong learning, producing positive energy, and imparting wisdom, experience, resources, and hope to others. Ultimately, she wishes to contribute to the world in the most meaningful way possible.
Sobin is a member of the American Skin Association’s Education Council of the Board, the Founding Chair of The Institute for Botulinum Toxin Research in partnership with the Yale School of Public Health, and an Advisory Board member of the University of Missouri Center for Precision Medicine, a multibillion-dollar state-wide initiative.
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