25
Apr
2018

What Can You Do With Genomics and AI? Alice Zhang on The Long Run

Today’s guest on The Long Run podcast is Alice Zhang.

Alice Zhang, co-founder and CEO, Verge Genomics

Let’s start with some basic background. Zhang studied systems biology at Princeton, graduated with honors, enrolled in an MD/PHD program at UCLA/Caltech, stayed there five years, quit, moved to Silicon Valley, and co-founded a company dedicated to using her knowledge for neurodegenerative drug discovery. She has been named among the Forbes 30-under-30.  

You get the idea. She’s smart. And young.

That’s nice, but what makes her more interesting to me as a guest for this show is her thoughtful approach to combining genomic data with artificial intelligence to improve drug discovery for complex multifactorial diseases. Specifically, the neurodegenerative kind. There are people out there thumping the tub, and drinking the AI Kool Aid, but I think Zhang has a pretty wise sense for what the AI can and can’t do. I learned a few things listening to her, and I think you will too.

11
Apr
2018

The Immune Sequencing Frontier: Harlan and Chad Robins on The Long Run

Today on The Long Run are a pair of guests — Harlan and Chad Robins.

They are the brothers who co-founded Seattle-based Adaptive Biotechnologies almost a decade ago. Chad is the CEO, and Harlan is the head of innovation.

Harlan Robins

Chad Robins

Adaptive, for those unfamiliar, has a specialized focus on sequencing regions of B-cells and T-cells of the adaptive immune system where the DNA isn’t fixed at birth – it rearranges, or adapts, to protect us from various environmental stimuli we encounter.

Seeing the adaptive immune code is useful for understanding immune system basics, but also in diagnosing disease and monitoring response to therapy. Immune sequencing, along with tumor sequencing like most of you have seen from Cambridge, Mass.-based Foundation Medicine, are among the most important early applications that have sprung to life based on Illumina’s next-gen sequencing platform.

Adaptive recently struck an ambitious partnership with Microsoft Research to create an antigen map, looking systemically at binding interactions between antigens and their corresponding T-cell receptors.

We talked some science, some business, and what it’s like to manage a company as brothers.

Enjoy.

28
Mar
2018

Teaching and Mentoring the Next Generation: Vicki Sato on The Long Run Podcast

Today’s guest on The Long Run podcast is Vicki Sato. She’s one of the biotech industry’s pioneers.

Sato started out as a classic academic scientist on the Harvard faculty. Beginning in the mid-1980s, and for about 20 years, the next phase of her career was as an executive at Biogen and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Her fingerprints are all over a number of drugs that are linchpins for those companies today.

Vicki Sato

The last decade or so she’s been a teacher and mentor — on the Harvard Business School faculty and as a board member. As a director of Bristol-Myers Squibb, Denali Therapeutics and Vir Biotechnology, she oversees strategic direction of companies working on treatments for cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and infectious disease. Having been around for this many years, she’s wise. And tough. But she’s also a warm person who cares a lot about the next generation of biotech leaders. She splits her time now between Boston and New York. Fun fact: She says she’s enjoying the culture of the Big City and dances the tango – competitively.

It was a treat to sit down with her and discuss her career arc.  

Before diving in, a word of thanks to the sponsors of the show: Presage Biosciences and Harvard Medical School executive education.

Next on The Long Run: Chad and Harlan Robins, the co-founders and brothers who run Seattle-based Adaptive Biotechnologies. This company has raised about $400 million over the years, and carved out a niche in immune sequencing, or immune profiling — a novel application of next-gen sequencing technology. We talked some about the science, the business strategy, and what it’s like to manage a company as brothers.

Now, join me and Vicki Sato for The Long Run.

26
Mar
2018

Mt. Everest: It’s Time

Six months of hard training is in the bank. Tomorrow morning, I will lug a pair of 120-liter gear bags to the airport and get on the plane for Kathmandu.

Destination: Mt. Everest, 29,029 feet/8,848 meters. The summit of the highest mountain in the world.

No matter what happens, three things are certain: I’ve given it everything I’ve got to prepare physically and mentally. I’m in good hands with the guides at Alpine Ascents International. And I’m eternally grateful for all of your support for the Everest Climb to Fight Cancer campaign at Fred Hutch.

The fundraising total for cancer research stands at $329,110.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

What can you expect between now and when I get home to the U.S. on June 2?

  1. Six episodes of The Long Run podcast. They will air on schedule every two weeks through June 6. Vicki Sato is the guest on the next show. Watch for that one Mar. 28.
  2. Smart industry coverage. TR contributing writers Kyle Serikawa and Timothy Hay, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, will publish pieces.
  3. A pause on business correspondence. When on the mountain, I will be focused on the mountain. If you need to reach me about anything business-related, we’ll talk in June.
  4. Team updates from the mountain. Many of you want to know how to follow the expedition. I will not be blogging, tweeting or podcasting from Base Camp (see Everest FAQs). But expedition leader Ben Jones of Alpine Ascents International will narrate regular updates – in text and via satellite phone audio. Here’s the link to bookmark: https://www.alpineascents.com/climbs/mount-everest/cybercasts/
  5. Afterward, photos from the top of the world. I made sure my point-and-shoot digital zoom camera can be operated with bulky mittens. I will be carrying a notebook and pen (rated for -30 Fahrenheit temperatures). I’ll be thinking about articles, slideshows or talks that may come after the climb.

For more background on the Climb to Fight Cancer and the Everest expedition, check the links below.

http://engage.fredhutch.org/site/PageServer?pagename=2011climb_greeting

https://timmermanreport.com/everest-fundraiser-for-cancer-research/

Thank you to the folks at Fred Hutch, and a few special guests, for making this send-off video. I’ve really enjoyed working with you on this.

Keep pursuing your great adventures in biotech. — Luke

14
Mar
2018

From Rock DJ to Scientist to Entrepreneur: Michael Gilman on The Long Run Podcast

Today’s guest on The Long Run podcast is Michael Gilman.

He’s the CEO of a pair of Boston-area biotech startups. One is Arrakis Therapeutics, a company attempting to make small molecule drugs against RNA targets. The other is Obsidian Therapeutics, a company seeking to take the next step in CAR-T immunotherapy, by carefully controlling dosing to avoid some of the worst side effects of these powerful cancer treatments.

Michael Gilman, CEO, Arrakis Therapeutics, Obsidian Therapeutics

I went into this conversation thinking I’d ask Gilman a fair bit about these young companies, because the science is darn interesting. We never quite got that far.

Instead we spent this time talking about Gilman’s early life and key turning points in his career. Gilman was on a hard core academic research career path for many years before entering industry. Then, around age 50, he became an entrepreneur. He clearly found something he’s good at – he’s 2-for-2 as an entrepreneur, having sold his first two companies to Biogen and Bristol-Myers Squibb, respectively.

Next episode of The Long Run: Vicki Sato. She’s one of the industry’s pioneers, and still very much active in the game. Sato started out as a classic academic scientist on the Harvard faculty. The next 20 years of her career were as an operating executive at Biogen and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. There, she put her fingerprints on a number of drugs that are linchpins for those companies today. The last decade or so she’s been a teacher and mentor — on the Harvard Business School faculty and as a board member. She’s wise, whip-smart, and suffers no fools behind the scenes. But she’s also a warm person who cares a lot about the next generation of biotech leaders. It was a treat to sit down with her and discuss her career path. Stay tuned for that episode.

Now, join me and Michael Gilman for The Long Run.

12
Mar
2018

Photo Gallery: The Boston Cancer Summit

What a whirlwind last week was! The Seattle and Boston Cancer Summits were an East-West combo punch on behalf of the Everest Climb to Fight Cancer fundraising campaign for Fred Hutch.

These events did the job: Bringing together leading thinkers and doers on both coasts, they both drew sellout, highly engaged crowds. The fundraising tally now stands at $326,000!!

The weather forecast for a nor’easter in Boston made me a little nervous, but the snow didn’t interfere. Everything came off without a hitch. Both of these gatherings were brimming with ideas, positive energy toward tackling the challenges of cancer R&D, good humor, and well wishes about my upcoming summit bid on the world’s highest mountain.

Special thanks to the sponsors of this campaign that began in October:

Summit: Sanofi

South Col: 10X Genomics

Advanced Base Camp:

Alexandria Real Estate Equities

Takeda Pharmaceuticals

Khumbu Icefall: Novateur

Base Camp:

Sofinnova Ventures

5AM Ventures

ARCH Venture Partners

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals

EBD Group

Loncar Investments

Photo credit for the Boston Cancer Summit: David Parnes.

I also want to thank the great team of people who did so much work behind the scenes to make these events happen. At Fred Hutch in Seattle, that includes Cate Tambeaux, Kristin Nash, Kelly O’Brien, and Niki Robinson. At Sanofi Genzyme in Cambridge, special thanks go to Ashleigh Koss, Anna Robinson, and Christy Maginn.

Two from now, on Mar. 27, I will get on the plane for Nepal, and won’t be coming back from Everest until June 2. You can read FAQs about the expedition and donate to the campaign here if you haven’t already.

I’m feeling great physically, and privileged to be in position to do this climb and bring so much fundraising and attention to this moment of possibility in cancer research. Thanks to you being part of it.

Enjoy the photos!

BOSTON CANCER SUMMIT: MAR. 7, 2018

12
Mar
2018

Photo Gallery: The Seattle Cancer Summit

What a whirlwind last week was! The Seattle and Boston Cancer Summits were an East-West combo punch on behalf of the Everest Climb to Fight Cancer fundraising campaign for Fred Hutch.

These events did the job: Bringing together leading thinkers and doers on both coasts, they both drew sellout, highly engaged crowds. The fundraising tally now stands at $326,000!!

The weather forecast for a nor’easter in Boston made me a little nervous, but the snow didn’t interfere. Everything came off without a hitch. Both of these gatherings were brimming with ideas, positive energy toward tackling the challenges of cancer R&D, good humor, and well wishes about my upcoming summit bid on the world’s highest mountain.

Special thanks to the sponsors of this campaign that began in October:

Summit: Sanofi

South Col: 10X Genomics

Advanced Base Camp:

Alexandria Real Estate Equities

Takeda Pharmaceuticals

Khumbu Icefall: Novateur

Base Camp:

Sofinnova Ventures

5AM Ventures

ARCH Venture Partners

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals

EBD Group

Loncar Investments

Photo credits from the Seattle Cancer Summit were by Josh Belzman. Boston Cancer Summit photos were by David Parnes (see those in a separate post).

I also want to thank the great team of people who did so much work behind the scenes to make these events happen. At Fred Hutch in Seattle, that includes Cate Tambeaux, Kristin Nash, Kelly O’Brien, and Niki Robinson. At Sanofi Genzyme in Cambridge, special thanks go to Ashleigh Koss, Anna Robinson, and Christy Maginn.

Two from now, on Mar. 27, I will get on the plane for Nepal, and won’t be coming back from Everest until June 2. You can read FAQs about the expedition and donate to the campaign here if you haven’t already.

I’m feeling great physically, and privileged to be in position to do this climb and bring so much fundraising and attention to this moment of possibility in cancer research. Thanks to you being part of it.

SEATTLE CANCER SUMMIT: MAR.5, 2018

 

 

28
Feb
2018

Matching Up Technology & People: Bruce Booth on The Long Run Podcast

Bruce Booth is the latest guest on The Long Run podcast.

Booth, a partner with Atlas Venture, has made a name for himself the past few years as the author of the LifeSciVC blog. He writes about industry investment trends, the occasional news item from Atlas portfolio companies, and occasionally shines a light into the dark little corners of the venture capital business – in a way only an insider can.

Bruce Booth, partner, Atlas Venture

Bruce also likes his data. Like all scientists, he seeks to understand the world through data – the more the better, and often through helpful charts and graphs for visualization. But the job of a VC has many aspects that aren’t data-driven. Fundamentally, it’s often about matching up an exciting discovery or technology platform with the people who can develop it – people who can navigate the inevitably choppy seas ahead. People aren’t so easily reduced to data points. How do VCs evaluate the skills and character of people who are given money to run things? Are there enough people out there with the right stuff to meet this exciting moment in science? Where do people get to hone their entrepreneurial skills? How can the industry do a better job of developing scientific entrepreneurs, when companies don’t have much time for on-the-job-training, and everyone needs to deliver results ASAP?  

There is considerable debate in the industry on how this human capital development occurs. Some argue there’s an anti-youth bias, a desire among VCs to back the same insiders over and over. Others have become more vocal that not nearly enough is being done to advance into C-level and board-level roles. Booth is listening — he even wrote a new blog post about the issue yesterday

These are hard questions, and I think we both agree the industry can and must do better at developing its people. Talking about the issue is just the start. This is about building a thriving industry for the long haul.

Before diving in, thanks to the sponsors of The Long Run podcast — Presage Biosciences and EBD Group

Presage Biosciences has a microinjector device that enables intratumoral microdosing of experimental cancer drugs. Why does this matter? It enables researchers to evaluate several drugs at once against a single tumor, while the tumor is still in the patient. It’s in clinical trials now. To learn more, go to presagebio.com.

And did you know BIO-Europe Spring is only 2 weeks away – coming up Mar. 12-14 in Amsterdam. Listeners of this show can take a 200 Euro discount off registration to this major partnering event by typing in the special code “longrun” when registering.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER with ‘longrun’ discount code

Now, join me and Bruce Booth for The Long Run.

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