Genentech Taps Broad Institute’s Aviv Regev to Head Research and Early Development Program

manager to leader

Pharma veteran Michael Varney, Genentechs head of Research and Development, will retire from the company at the end of July after spending 15 years with the company. He will be replaced by MIT’s Aviv Regev, who will join the company at the beginning of August, Roche, the parent company of Genentech announced this morning.

Varney joined Genentech in 2005 as its head of Small Molecule Discovery and took over as head of Genentech Research and Early Development (gRED) in 2015. The fruits of Varney’s labors in this role will not likely be seen for some time to come due to the long clinical process. Some of the drug candidates his team has worked on over the past five years have moved into the clinic, including the immunotherapy, tiragolumab. Roche will present the first results of tiragolumab, an anti-TIGIT antibody, at the virtual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting later this month.

Roche Chief Executive Officer Severin Schwan thanked Varney for the contributions he has made to the company since he joined the company in 2005 from his role as Head of Drug Discovery at Pfizer. Before that, he held roles of increasing responsibility at Agouron Pharmaceuticals.

“I have tremendous gratitude for Mike’s many contributions over the past 15 years including expanding our drug platform capabilities and the positive impact he has made to the strength of our pipeline. I wish him continued happiness and health in his retirement,” Schwan said in a statement.

Replacing Varney is Aviv Regev, who is highly accomplished in her field. Regev currently a member of the executive leadership team of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is also co-chair of the international Human Cell Atlas project and founding director of the Klarman Cell Observatory at Broad Institute. Regev is set to join the company Aug. 1 and will be based in South San Francisco. In its announcement, Roche said Regev is a pioneer in deciphering molecular circuits that govern cells, tissues and organs in health and their malfunction in disease. In particular, the company said she has pioneered assays for RNA sequencing in single-cells, as well as machine learning algorithms for distilling biological knowledge from the resulting information. Those pioneering efforts have resulted in the first demonstrations of how to discover new insights into a range of molecular circuits, systems, and fields, including immunology, neurobiology, development, inflammatory disease, cancer, and evolution.

“In doing so, her groundbreaking work is helping to answer the deepest and most general of biological questions -- how cells and their circuits function and rewire, and how these dynamics underlie health and malfunction in disease,” Roche said in its announcement.

Schwan said Regev brings a “rare combination of expertise” that will help the company unlock more possibilities in data-based drug discovery and development.

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