PEGS-The Chain Episode 21

What was science like before the shift to big data technology? How did biologists learn about cells before we could do high throughput gene analysis? What can we learn about how to problem solve from those who helped get us to where we are today? In this Science Commune episode, Dr. Rik Derynck helps us answer those questions by sharing his stories as a young scientist in the “primitive” early days of cell biology. Derynck talks about his work on TGF-β and how his early pursuit of the unknown helped inspire new methodologies for problem solving that carry into his work today. Derynck looks towards the future of the field as biologists gain understanding of TGF-β’s role in cancer immunology and immunotherapy.

Rik Derynck, PhD, Professor, Departments of Cell/Tissue Biology and Anatomy, UCSF
Dr. Rik Derynck pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Louvain, Belgium, and his doctoral research at the University of Ghent, Belgium, where he cloned and expressed fibroblast interferon (interferon-b), thus providing the basis for its clinical evaluation and development by Biogen.  In 1981, he joined a very young Genentech in South San Francisco, California, where his research resulted in the molecular characterization of transforming growth factor (TGF)-a and TGF-b that then became the prototype of the large TGF-b family of differentiation factors. In 1991, he joined the University of California, San Francisco, where he is Professor and Co-Director of the UCSF Institute of Regeneration Medicine.  Dr. Derynck’s research has greatly impacted our understanding of TGF-β family signaling mechanisms, including the discovery of TGF-b’s ability to promote epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Many mechanistic and conceptual advances (and reagents) originate from his lab and have helped to provide the basis for therapeutic approaches based on inhibition of TGF-β signaling in fibrosis and cancer. His research focuses on understanding mechanisms of TGF-β signaling and their roles in promoting epithelial-mesenchymal transition. He is also a Founder of Pliant Therapeutics, which focuses on discovering and developing novel therapeutics to halt progression of fibrotic diseases. 

Daniel Chen, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer, IGM BiosciencesDaniel Chen, MD, PhD, is the Chief Medical Officer for IGM Biosciences, and former Vice President, Global Head of Cancer Immunotherapy Development at Genentech/Roche. He received a BS degree in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1990), a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology (1996) and MD (1998) from the University of Southern California. Daniel completed an Internal Medicine Residency and Medical Oncology Fellowship at Stanford University (2003). He went on to complete a Post-doctoral fellowship with Mark Davis in Immunology, where he was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Associate. He also ran the metastatic melanoma clinic at the Stanford Cancer Center from 2003-2006. In that time, he studied human anti-cancer immune responses pre- and post- cancer vaccination and cytokine administration to determine why anti-tumor immune responses were not more clinically effective. He received a U19 grant to develop better immunologic tools to interrogate human immune responses and ultimately patented the MHC cellular microarray to detect and functionally characterize antigen-specific T cell states. He continued as Adjunct Clinical Faculty at Stanford from 2006-2016, where he cared for melanoma patients. At Genentech from 2006-2018, Daniel focused on the clinical development of anti-angiogenic and immune modulatory targeted therapies in both early and late Development, as well as the diagnostic tools to aid their development. This included leading the clinical development for atezolizumab, a PD-L1 inhibitor, from the time the program was in research through IND, Phase I, Phase II, Phase III, to filing and approvals in multiple indications world-wide. At IGM, Daniel focuses on the development of novel engineered multivalent and multispecific therapeutics. He is a reviewer for Nature, Immunity and Clinical Cancer Research, serves on the Board of Directors for SITC, co-chair of the CRI cancer Immunotherapy consortium, gave the keynote presentation at the AACR NCI EORTC Annual Meeting 2014 and presented at the US Congressional Briefing on Immuno Oncology in 2017. He has continued to publish with academic and industry collaborators in the field of cancer immunotherapy, including the often-referenced Chen and Mellman manuscripts, “Elements of cancer immunity and the cancer-immune set point” and “Oncology meets Immunology: The Cancer-Immunity Cycle.”