Career Arc of a Biotech Leader: Sue Desmond-Hellmann on The Long Run

Today’s guest on The Long Run is Sue Desmond-Hellmann.

Sue — and I don’t say this about many people — is a biotech industry legend.

Sue Desmond-Hellmann

Sue is an oncologist and a public health professional by training. She made her name in biopharmaceuticals at Genentech from 1995-2009 — the glory days when it became the world’s most important developer of new cancer drugs.

She was part of the leadership team when the company developed the original targeted antibodies for cancer – Rituxan, Herceptin, and Avastin.

After Genentech, Sue served as chancellor of UCSF, and then worked as CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation until January 2020.

Currently, among other things, Sue is a board member for Pfizer, and is an advisor to GV, the venture capital firm formerly known as Google Ventures.

In this episode, we talk mostly about Sue’s early career – growing up, becoming a doctor, working on the frontlines of the AIDS epidemic, and finding her way into industry. We talk some toward the end about her time at Genentech.

Before we dive in, a word from the sponsor of The Long Run.

DNA Script recently launched the SYNTAX System, the first-ever benchtop enzymatic DNA printer, which uses their proprietary enzymatic synthesis technology.

The SYNTAX System prints DNA, on-demand, right in the lab. Researchers simply import their sequences, and within hours the system synthesizes DNA oligos that can be used immediately in molecular biology and genomics workflows.

DNA Script’s enzymatic DNA synthesis emulates nature to overcome the drawbacks of the chemical-based methods traditionally used until now. Designed for fully automated, walk-away synthesis, the SYNTAX System takes less than 15 minutes to set up with no special training to operate.

With SYNTAX, researchers can accelerate discovery with DNA on-demand.

For more information on DNA Script, please visit www.dnascript.com.


Now please join me and Sue Desmond-Hellmann on The Long Run.

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