For four decades, postdocs at Genentech have been integral to the company’s innovations and successes. From just a few postdoctoral fellows in the late 1970s to the establishment of a formal four-year program in 1990, their influence on research and discovery has grown significantly. Today there are more than 120 postdocs at Genentech but they do not work on research that is directly related to any investigational medicines in development. Instead, similar to an academic environment, they are encouraged to pursue important scientific questions, conduct basic discovery research, and share their findings with the broader academic community by publishing in peer-reviewed scientific journals. According to postdoc mentor and Vice President of Physiological Chemistry, Vishva Dixit, “Postdoctoral fellows keep us at the forefront of bio-medical research.”
Vice President of Protein Sciences at Genentech, Postdoc 1993-1995
“I came to Genentech as a postdoc in 1993 to study structure and function of proteins using NMR spectroscopy. What appealed to me in coming here was how much you could focus your time on really doing the science, while working closely with experts in their respective disciplines. Even as a postdoc, you felt like you were a part of a community of very diverse scientists that come together to work on important problems. Your resources are essentially unlimited − the only thing holding you back is how creative or curious you are and your willingness to work hard. Later, what I enjoyed as a scientist mentoring postdocs is that they’re fresh. They have their own crazy ideas. They challenge assumptions, asking incredibly insightful questions that once you’ve been in a field for a while, you often forget to ask. For me, it’s interactions with passionate scientists that end up being the best part of my day.”
Senior Director and Principal Scientist of Department of Protein Chemistry and Structural Biology at Genentech, Postdoc 1999-2001
“As a postdoc I got to do cutting-edge basic research but with the resources of a company. It led to multiple publications, as well as inventorships on patents. I have come full circle at this point and have mentored several postdocs. That’s been a wonderful way to be involved with a lot of different aspects of science. One of the things that makes Genentech really special is that significant resources are dedicated to exploring fundamental questions. That enables us to do a better job of discovering new medicines and figuring out who will benefit from them. It’s an important aspect of our philosophy.”
Accepted a scientist position with Genentech, Postdoc 2013-Present
“I’ve had the time of my life for the past three years. I've been amazed at the scientific diversity and how easy it is to connect with people at all levels − from other postdocs and scientific researchers up to principal scientists. We’re all on the same campus so there’s a feeling of unity. The reason that my paper [in Nature] came out rather fast was because it was a collaborative effort—a lot of different experts and techniques came together to describe exciting novel biology.
Understanding the biology is where we always start. As experimental biologists, we try to break the system we are studying, figure out what it is we broke, and then develop the right tool to fix it. Being a postdoc at Genentech, it’s eye-opening to see how a medicine is made and how many disciplines are involved. It opens up so many career paths.”