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Putting My Passion into Action: Discovering and Advancing Immunology Treatments

  • UCB VictorSloan Blog
    As a clinician and researcher, Dr. Victor Sloan is passionate about caring for people living with rheumatic diseases. Read about how he's putting his passion into action by helping to discover and deliver innovative therapies for patients living with non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA).

    'While I was in medical school, I watched my late sister-in-law suffer from lupus, a serious, life-changing chronic autoimmune disease. Her experience over the course of her illness, including many interactions with physicians, inspired me to specialize in rheumatology and kick off my career as Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

    After a few years, I joined the pharmaceutical industry to work in rheumatology, inflammation and immunology drug development. After holding positions at various companies, I joined UCB in 2011, where I currently serve as Vice President/Development Strategy Lead, overseeing clinical development of our portfolio of investigational treatments in immunology. However, still passionate about helping patients in a clinical setting, I continue to volunteer as a practicing rheumatologist one-half day a week, running a teaching clinic at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

    As both a clinician and researcher, my dual roles have led to many positive impacts in bringing innovative solutions to patients who need them. Like many rheumatologists, I was not familiar with nr-axSpA before I joined UCB. This chronic inflammatory condition causes long-standing and debilitating back pain, stiffness and fatigue and often has a profound impact on patients’ lives. Historically, nr-axSpA has not been well-recognized because of a lack of understanding of its history, progression and prognosis, as well as the absence of easily-available techniques to make the diagnosis. As a result, patients often experience a delay of five to eight years from symptom onset to diagnosis as they seek care from other physicians, either primary care doctors or other specialists, delaying the referral to a rheumatologist.

    I witnessed this unfamiliarity with the disease when I attended a recent rheumatology medical society meeting, where half of the attendees said they aren’t familiar with nr-axSpA and are not actively looking for it in their patients. Many of those who are familiar with the condition believe it is not as serious as ankylosing spondylitis (AS), which causes similar symptoms.

    However, a body of data has demonstrated that nr-axSpA is comparable to AS in terms of disease burden. Both patients with nr-axSpA and those with AS often experience substantial (and similar) inflammatory back pain, prolonged and severe stiffness, fatigue, sleep disturbances, reduced physical function, decreased quality of life, impaired work and home productivity and social participation.
    Given the lack of understanding of nr-axSpA, education is critical, and UCB is going the extra mile to educate the rheumatology community about nr-axSpA because we know that raising awareness will lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment. In turn, this will lead to better care and improved outcomes for people living with this disease.

    Beyond nr-axSpA, we are focused on developing targeted therapies that can modify immunologic diseases by deepening our knowledge of disease mechanisms. I look forward to continuing to bring my experience as a practicing rheumatologist to UCB to develop groundbreaking and innovative solutions that can transform the lives of people with severe immunologic diseases.'

    About the Author
    Victor Sloan, M.D., is Vice President, Development Strategy Lead in the Immunology Patient Value Unit at UCB. Previously, he held senior leadership roles at Celgene and Novartis and was a visiting scientist at Merck. He has worked in the field of rheumatology for more than 20 years. Throughout his career, he has played a significant role in advancing the development of novel treatments for immunologic diseases. 


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