First 90 Days: Adaptive Biotech’s Tycho Peterson

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Welcome to First 90 Days, a series dedicated to examining how life sciences executives are planning for success in their new role. Today, we’re looking at Adaptive Biotechnologies’ new CFO, Tycho Peterson, who stepped into the role in June to take the financial reins during a sweeping reorganization of the diagnostics and therapeutics company.

Tycho Peterson has long been a voice on Adaptive Biotechnologies’ earnings calls, but this last quarter was different — instead of asking the questions as a sell-side analyst at J.P. Morgan, Peterson found himself on the other side of the table as the diagnostics and therapeutics company’s new CFO.

Peterson, who stepped into the role in June, joined the company at a time of major transformation. In March, Adaptive reorganized into two business areas — one focused on the ClonoSeq diagnostic test for blood cancers and the other comprising immune diagnostics and drug discovery. This drug side of the company also incorporates partnerships with pharmas like Genentech, in which the companies are developing personalized cellular therapies that could “effectively cure cancer,” Peterson says.

The reorganization has also created challenges, including an effort to streamline its force which has required that the company cut about 12% of its employees. As a former analyst, it’s these kinds of efficiencies that Peterson is well-suited to create.

Adaptive Biotechnologies CFO Tycho Peterson

Adaptive Biotechnologies CFO Tycho Peterson

Permission granted by Tycho Peterson/Adaptive


He says he took his time to find the right entry into the industry and landed on Adaptive as a place where his impact on patients’ lives could be the greatest and where he could take the company to the next level of profitability.

PharmaVoice caught up with Peterson as he began his third month on the job, discussing what he brings to the table as a former analyst, the strategies that Adaptive is employing to become more streamlined and what it means to be a good CFO.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

PharmaVoice: You’ve been an analyst a long time, keeping an eye on the industry from that side. What kind of perspective does that experience give you as you take on a CFO role?

Tycho Peterson: I spent 23 years as a sell-side analyst at J.P. Morgan covering the life sciences tools and diagnostics space, so over the course of my career, I got to see a lot of different companies — some successful, some not. It was interesting to understand, ultimately, what drives success at a company, and it can be a combination of the right technology, the right market opportunity, various barriers to entry. But studying a lot of these companies has helped me a lot as I stepped into the role here at Adaptive to understand what the keys to success are.

We’re going through an interesting point in our own journey at Adaptive, trying to focus more on profitability and getting more efficient. Having studied a lot of companies that were very good at that over the years, I think I can help out in that regard as well.

What did you do in terms of preparation for this position?

I did a lot of due diligence as I was thinking about the types of companies I would join, trying to identify a company that was ultimately going to have an impact on patients’ lives. Early on, I homed in on some of the clinical diagnostic companies. And then the second part for me was finding a company that was going to be differentiated in terms of the technology and the overall market opportunity. Adaptive certainly checks that box in terms of having a broad platform that can span multiple disease states, and both diagnostic and therapeutic revenue streams.

The first thing when I came on board was to step in and understand the different parts of the business, get to know the finance team, get to know the systems — I talked to a lot of people that had made a move from sell-side into CFO roles and tried to understand what their first 180 days were like so I could hit the ground running.

Adaptive underwent major changes prior to you joining the team, including layoffs and a reorganization into two businesses. Can you talk about the unique challenges of navigating the financial direction of a company after that transformation?

Defining the two business segments — [minimal residual disease] and immune medicine — is part of the process of sharpening the focus and simplifying the business overall. The goal here is to effectively allocate capital to drive further growth. With the realignment, it’s a much cleaner reporting structure.

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