Penelope Manasco didn’t go to med school to become a practicing doctor. Instead, it was her interest in clinical research that prompted her to attend Tulane and receive her training as a pediatric endocrinologist. Kind of unusual, sure, but she certainly got what she wanted.
Manasco, 48, joined First Genetic Trust as chief medical officer and executive vice president. She’ll head up the company’s clinical and scientific endeavors, including such issues as securing dynamic consent from patients, optimal utilization of samples to improve studies, confronting ethical questions, and delivering genetic test results.
For the most part, it’s work that she’s used to. Formerly head of clinical genetics at GlaxoSmith- Kline, the largest such group in pharma, “I essentially started the division when I came, under Allen Roses,” Manasco says. One of the key components was her focus on ethics. She worked with an ethics committee to get primary and secondary reviews of GSK’s processes as well as with policymakers and educators to get the word out about what she calls “the promise of genetic medicine.”
She headed for FGT when it became clear that she couldn’t tackle pharmaco-genomics in the broader scope from within one pharmaceutical company — everything at GSK centered around its pipeline. For the whole view she wanted, Manasco had to go to an outside company, and she thought FGT “offers a lot of the answers to the challenges.”
For one thing, she thinks FGT, led by Arthur Holden, will succeed because of its mix of expertise. “You need somebody [who’s] got a very strong understanding of disease, somebody with a strong bioinformatics and IT capability, and somebody who has strength in lab-based genetics,” she says. “You really can’t be successful unless you bring them all together.”
Manasco’s success will come by seeing improved clinical studies, the delivery of genomic drugs to market, and public acceptance of these. Genetic medicine is “not a revolution, it’s an evolution,” she says. “It doesn’t have to carry with it the other kinds of ethical dilemmas.”
— Meredith Salisbury