"Our goal is to discover drug candidates with molecular mechanisms of action that give the best chance of translating to clinical benefit. To achieve this we must walk the line between reductionist, mechanistic approaches and black-box phenotypic profiling, between chemistry and biology. It’s a fascinating and exciting space to be in."
I got my B.Sc.(hons) and PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Otago, New Zealand, studying ribosomal stop codon recognition. This was followed by postdoctoral fellowships at Washington University Medical School, St Louis MO, studying CSF1R signaling and breast cancer and UC Santa Cruz, where I worked on placental endocrinology, mammary gland biology and cancer. Prior to joining Genentech in 2003, I worked at Sugen characterizing functions of novel kinase drug targets. In my time at Genentech I’ve been part of many great small molecule project teams, including leading the Project Team for kinase inhibitor projects from hit-to-lead through to nomination of a clinical candidate. My current focus is on using chemical biology and informatics tools to understand the biological mechanisms of known inhibitors as well as to identify novel drug targets.
I have the privilege of leading a group of Scientists and RAs who all serve critical roles in contributing to and supporting small molecule drug discovery projects. We have a strong emphasis on taking functionally meaningful cellular responses and phenotypes and converting them to high-throughput quantitative assays, as well as developing biochemical assays that provide the most critical information on compound potency, selectivity, and mechanisms of action. Our goal is to enable discovery of drug candidates with molecular mechanisms of action that have the best chance of translating to clinical benefit. To achieve this we have to walk the line between reductionist mechanistic approaches and fuzzy systems-level phenotypic profiling.
In support of this goal I also spend some time developing and supporting data analysis workflows and tools for large-scale biology, including high-content analysis and compound selectivity and phenotypic profiling.
Much of my time is spent participating in discovery project teams at various stages, from HTS assay development to early clinical development, providing and interpreting data, gaining greater insights into target biology, through collaborations with research biologists, and into drug design and optimization.