"If I could one day shake hands with a patient who benefitted from a medicine that I helped develop, I’d consider my career well spent."
After obtaining my Ph. D. in cell and molecular biology at the University of Basel, Switzerland, I moved halfway around the world and joined Genentech for a postdoctoral fellowship. My decision to come here was driven by the desire to join the world’s best scientists in a mission that was important to me: to further advance our understanding of human disease, and thus to enable the development of better drugs.
I was hired permanently in 2003 as an Associate Scientist in the Molecular Biology Department. Since then, I have had the opportunity to pursue my scientific interests while also participating in many interdisciplinary and drug development efforts. In the meantime, I have moved to the Immunology department and assumed responsibility for the biology aspects of our small molecule programs in this disease area. Working here has been a most rewarding experience, as it means being part of an incredible team of excellent scientists; even after many years here, I keep learning new things every day.
Our postdoc program is a fantastic opportunity for me as a mentor to pursue projects that are scientifically interesting and challenging, even if they do not directly hold promise for drug development. The postdocs I have worked with, directly or indirectly, are some of the most driven and intelligent people I have met, and together we have published many very well received studies.
For the majority of my career, I have focused on investigating the biology of cytokines. Cytokines and their receptors represent excellent targets for pharmacological intervention, not only because they are accessible to protein therapeutics, but also because many of them have very specific biological functions and are often found to be involved in disease pathophysiology. My lab has specifically focused on IL-27, IL-23, and IL-31 over the past few years. In addition, we are interested in defining and pursuing novel small and large molecule targets for therapeutic intervention in immunological diseases.
Most recently, my lab has become interested in the interaction of commensal microbiota with the host immune system, because commensals play a vital role in “educating” the adaptive immune system. This rapidly evolving field is still in its infancy, but we believe that a better understanding of microbiota will lead to novel approaches to target human inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.