|UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellman|
Prior to joining UCSF, Desmond-Hellmann spent 14 years at Genentech. From 2004-2009, she served as president of product development. In this role, she was responsible for Genentech’s pre-clinical and clinical development, process research and development, business development and product portfolio management. She also served as a member of Genentech’s executive committee, beginning in 1996. During her time at Genentech, several of the company’s therapeutics were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the company became the nation’s No. 1 producer of anti-cancer drug treatments.
Q: Industry and academia have traditionally operated at a different pace, with separate objectives. How have you addressed these challenges and what advice do you have for others who look to emulate your success?
Q: How do you measure success of these academic/corporate partnerships?
A: We have many types of industry partnerships on campus, ranging from clinical trials to collaborations on very basic research that help us understand the mechanisms of disease. Success is measured differently for each of those. But my ultimate goal, which is shared throughout the UCSF campus, is to apply the most advanced science to improve the lives of people throughout the world. So for us, the real measure of these industry partnerships is whether they enable us to move faster and more effectively to translate the best science into real improvements for patients. That takes time, but that’s the ultimate success.
Q: What considerations do you make before deciding to partner with a pharmaceutical company?
A: There are many considerations, starting with how well our research is aligned in a specific field, and how well our strengths complement each other’s. As a public institution, it’s also very important to us that we establish some critical details up front, such as our faculty’s right to publish all results from their research – good and bad – and, where applicable, any intellectual property agreements. But, ultimately, we’re also looking for people who are aligned in our mission to translate great science into a real difference for patients worldwide.
Q: The Pfizer-UCSF partnership is unique in that it brought Pfizer labs to Mission Bay. How has the proximity helped advance key research?
A: Collaborations really are key to solving problems in science that we haven’t been able to solve, and it’s no secret that close proximity helps any relationship. Several industry neighbors have told us that being able to walk across the street, rather than calling someone from across country, is making a real difference in their collaborations with us.
Pfizer’s Center for Therapeutic Innovation, specifically, already has enabled UCSF and Pfizer to launch several key research collaborations at Mission Bay. Those include a project studying a treatment for a blood clotting disorder known as thrombosis, a therapy for a common and often deadly form of liver disease, known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, and new therapies for the devastating condition of pulmonary fibrosis, which scars the lungs and impairs normal breathing.
Q: At Genentech, you supervised some of the biggest successes in drug development history. Are there parallels to be made between your business experience and the challenges you face as a chancellor?
A: As at Genentech, at UCSF I oversee a team of exceptionally talented, motivated people. As chancellor, my goal is to provide all of our faculty, whether they are basic or clinical researchers, educators, or clinicians with the support they need to succeed in their work. This means understanding the challenges and obstacles they face and identifying ways to help them address them. It also means identifying, from my more distant perspective, broad opportunities that individual faculty members may not see to advance their work.
Given my own background, I’m very interested in translational medicine, moving our research discoveries toward the clinic, and much of my effort focuses on facilitating this effort.
Q: If you could change policies at the state or federal level, what would your priorities be?
CHI-Advancing California biomedical research and innovation