Marc Tessier-Lavigne on Role at Genentech
  Marc Tessier-Lavigne     Biography    
Recorded: 11 Sep 2008

So at Genentech I have two jobs, if you will. My job in research management, which has evolved over the past five years since I’ve been there, now involves overseeing all therapeutic area research. So oncology which is our major area focus reports in to me, immunology which is our second area of focus reports in to me. We’re building neuroscience as well. We have activities in a few other areas - tissue growth and repair - so I work with the leaders in those therapeutic areas on developing new plans, on helping them get resources and recruit people.

The most exciting part of the job, of course, is focusing on the science. The people who run those therapeutic areas themselves are all accomplished scientists, Ira Mehlman is running oncology. Andy Chan immunology. We’ve just recruited Morgan Sheng from MIT, he’s starting on Monday to head up neuroscience. I work with all of those individuals on setting the strategies in those areas and figuring out how we are going to tackle complex disease. So it’s a very, very exciting position. There are 800 people approximately reporting into that, and just a wealth of exciting scientific projects from very basic science trying to under basic mechanisms or disease mechanisms, through choosing targets and developing drugs against those targets, and moving them forward ultimately into the clinic. So that’s my major role.

The other role that I play in research management, which to me has been very exciting and a real growth and learning opportunity; I co-chair a committee that oversees our candidate medicines from the time we declare them as candidates, into the clinic, through Phase II Proof-of-concept. So it’s really the translation of the science into the clinic. I co-chair this with the head of our clinical organization. So it’s the handshake between research and clinical development if you will.

So very exciting, very fulfilling. And then I maintain a research lab as well of 8 postdoctoral fellows who continue to work on axon guidance during development, axon regeneration, and also increasingly axonal degeneration. In fact I’m here at this meeting, we’re presenting a number of posters and a few talks tonight.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne, a pioneer in developmental neurobiology, is currently president of The Rockefeller University in New York, where he heads the Laboratory of Brain Development and Repair, and oversees 70 independent laboratories that operate within the university. He is the first industry executive to serve as president of Rockefeller. He joined Genentech, Inc. in 2003 as Senior Vice President, Research Drug Discovery, and was promoted to Executive Vice President, Research Drug Discovery in June, 2008. In that capacity, he was responsible for research management of all therapeutic areas of research, including a team of 1,400 researchers and his own research lab. His research at Genentech on the development of the brain uncovered details of how Alzheimer's disease is triggered.

Born in Canada in 1959, he was also raised in Belgium and the UK, and has lived in the US since 1990. Marc completed an undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics from McGill University (B.Sc., 1980), and a second undergraduate degree in philosophy and physiology from Oxford University (Rhodes Scholar, B.A., 1982). Prior to earning his Ph.D. at University College London (1986) in neurophysiology, Marc became the national coordinator of the Canadian Student Pugwash Organization, which promotes awareness and action relating to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and other ethical implications of science and technology policy. During his postdoctoral work at UCL and Columbia University, Marc’s research focus became developmental neurobiology. From 1991 to 2001 he was on the faculty at the University of California, San Francisco.

From 1994 to 2003 he was also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His famous discovery of the netrins (a class of proteins involved in axon guidance) occurred in 1994 while he was at the University of California, San Francisco. In 2000 he co-founded the biopharmaceutical company Renovis. From 2001-2003 he was the Susan B. Ford Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences and professor of Biological Sciences and a professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University.

Among the many awards Marc has received for his work in neuroscience are the McKnight Investigator Award (1994), the Ameritec Prize (1995), the Foundation IPSEN Prize for Neuronal Plasticity (shared, 1996), the Viktor Hamburger Award, International Society for Developmental Neuroscience (1997), the Wakeman Award for spinal cord injury research (shared, 1998), the Robert Dow Neuroscience Award (2003), and the Reeve-Irvine Research Medal (shared, 2006). Tessier-Lavigne has been elected a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and a fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences in the United Kingdom.