Tag Archives: Genentech

Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann – Cancer Warrior

13 Apr

Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann was profiled in the Sunday, April 11, 2010 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. The story was featured on the front page. It  provides a personal look at what drives the new leader of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). I was fortunate to have worked with Dr. Desmond-Hellmann while at UCSF. For me, she is a role model.

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Dr. Desmond-Hellmann is credited with helping to create an industry powerhouse (Genentech) and bringing the world’s most successful anti-cancer drug treatments to market.  These include Rituxan, the first drug to use monoclonal antibodies, which works by attacking specific types of cancer cells; Herceptin, the seminal drug which opened the doorway to personalized medicine by targeting the HER2 gene, which defines a specific subtype of breast cancer; and Avastin, the first angiogenesis inhibitor to stop tumors by preventing the formation of new blood vessels.

In the article, Bob Cohen, a senior Genentech executive best describes Desmond-Hellmann: “(she has a) sense of obligation that runs deep…I think she has always loved UCSF, and she also has deep spiritual beliefs. She’s also brilliant. A quick study. And she never disappoints…She used all she knew to develop a portfolio of oncology drugs…She was a gifted manager of people and resources, and she bet on the right horses and was able to get them to the finish line.”

“What’s possible for patients” has been a  consistent theme throughout Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann’s career. She sums it up in the article: “It’s a life-changing moment for someone to be told they
have cancer,” she said. “So I’ve always felt this incredible commitment
to being a part of something that can help them.”

Desmond-Hellmann has been both a champion of and game changing pioneer in oncology translational research – taking the basic understanding of biology, science and technology and using that deep understanding for the direct benefit of patients. She helped fundamentally transform the way we research and treat cancer, and improved and helped extend millions of lives worldwide.

Today, as Chancellor of UCSF, she is taking her experience to the next level and applying it to finding treatments and cures for  an even broader array of the world’s most devastating and unsolvable diseases. The future of this great institution is in good hands.

A Year of Drug Development Firsts?

30 Dec

CNBC’s Mike Huckman looks back at pharma’s biggest decade, and also looks ahead at    what’s to come in today’s segment “Big Pharma’s Big Decade.” UCSF’s Chancellor Dr. Susan  Desmond-Hellmann is featured in the program. Dr. Desmond-Hellmann who brought the world’s anti-cancer blockbuster drugs to market says what she’s “most proud of is that we changed the way people think about cancer.”

2010 could be a year of firsts– the first therapeutic vaccine for prostate cancer, first Lupus    drug, first once a week drug to treat diabetes, and  the first new flu vaccine technology since the 1950’s.

According to Dr. Desmond-Hellmann, “what is tremendous is how there is literally an explosion of biology – it should be a golden era.” She also believes that there could be a significant break-through in Alzheimer’s disease on the horizon. Drugs today just treat the symptoms but don’t slow the progression.

Dr. Desmond-Hellmann concludes by saying: “If there was a genuine breakthrough in Alzheimer’s we’re talking about the kinds of medicines that could be the biggest products in the world… bigger than Lipitor and Avastin… from a business perspective this could be huge.”

Watch the video here.

The World’s Most Powerful Innovators of 2009: UCSF Makes the List

15 Nov

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UCSF’s Chancellor, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH,  was selected by
FORBES as one of its 7 Most Powerful Innovators of 2009. You can read
the story here.
According to the article, Desmond-Hellmann’s  most influential
innovations were  the blockbuster cancer drugs Avastin and Herceptin. What makes Desmond-Hellmann an innovator?

"Susan Desmond-Hellmann, a physician and cancer researcher, is a hero to
legions of cancer patients. While president of product development at
Genentech from 2004 to April 2009, she played an integral role in the
selection, testing and development of Avastin, a colon cancer drug with
annual sales of $9 billion, and Herceptin, a breast cancer drug with
sales of $7.8 billion. In August 2009 she became the chancellor of
UCSF, a powerhouse in medical research, where she aims to continue
fostering innovation in health care and science".

Susan Desmond-Hellmann Named UCSF Chancellor

1 May

Susan Desmond-Hellmann, one of FORTUNE’s Most Powerful Women in Business, will become the first woman to serve as UCSF chancellor. The appointment, unanimously approved by the UC Board of Regents today, takes effect August 3, 2009.

Desmond-Hellmann, 51, brings a deep clinical, research, and executive leadership background and commitment to high-quality patient care to the position of UCSF chancellor.  She is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and medical oncology who has dedicated much of her career to cancer research.  She was with South San Francisco-based Genentech for 14 years – as clinical scientist, chief medical officer, executive vice president and president – where she has overseen successful trials for therapeutic drugs, including Herceptin, Avastin and Rituxan, targeting a range of cancers and other diseases. Says Desmond-Hellman:

I began my career at UCSF, and my heart has never left it..My life’s work has been focused on making a difference for patients, and I cannot think of a better place than UCSF to carry that work forward.  As the health needs of the world continue to change, UCSF will continue to play a pivotal role in developing solutions through its research, teaching and clinical care across all the health disciplines.

New Theory About the Cause of Alzheimer’s Disease – a Prenatal Link?

22 Feb

pj-ao487_resear_g_20090218123227New research at Genentech provides a provocative theory about the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and   suggests potential new targets for therapies to treat it, reports Ron Winslow in the February 19 issue of the Wall Street Journal.

The prevailing view about what causes Alzheimer’s disease is that  deposits called beta amyloid accumulate in the brain, destroying nerve cells and ultimately, the patient’s memory.  Now, new research shows there’s a very different way of looking at the disease.

The Genentech/Salk Institute team of researchers propose that a normal process in which excess nerve cells and nerve fibers are pruned from the brain during prenatal development is somehow reactivated in the adult brain and “hijacked” to cause the death of such cells in Alzheimer’s patients, writes Winslow.

According to Marc Tessier-Lavigne, executive vice president, research drug discovery at Genentech, the new findings offer evidence that “Alzheimer’s is not just bad luck, but rather it is the activation of a pathway that is there for development purposes.”

Genentech has identified potential drug candidates based on the findings and says that it may take many years for any potential treatment to be developed.

The research was published Thursday in the journal Nature.

NOTE: The photos of normal and dead nerve fibers above are from Dr. Tessier-Lavigne.