Topol and Reed on a More Collaborative Drug Pipeline

; John C. Reed, MD, PhD


March 28, 2013

In This Article

A 'Big, Big' Decision

Dr. Topol: So now you made this big, big decision in your career and this was a tough one, I'm sure.

Dr. Reed: Absolutely.

Dr. Topol: What are your thoughts about this? You obviously have been a legend here at Stanford-Burnham, in San Diego, and in the whole of science. You could stay on there, of course, but you decided to do something very different [at Roche] -- in another country, in fact. What was going on in your mind?

Dr. Reed: Well, I think it was 2 things. One is that it's a bit of a juncture in one's life where, after 11 years in the CEO role, we just completed a very successful 10-year plan at the Institute, and we're working towards the next 10-year plan. As you're going through that process you are thinking, "Am I going to do this for the next 10 years or am I going to explore something else?" I'm very proud of what my team accomplished, but I'm also thinking that it might be the right time to let somebody else come in and run the Institute and try to take it to the next level.

Personally, our kids are now allowed out of the home, so we're empty-nesters. We love California; it's hard to beat in terms of the weather and whatnot, but when Roche came knocking on the door, I was receptive to having a conversation because I learned more about the company. I knew to some extent what they had been doing over the years, but I hadn't really dug in and studied the company. [When I did] I just became more and more enamored.

They were arguably the first big pharma to really embrace the concept of personalized healthcare, because they have both the world's largest diagnostics company and a major commitment to molecular diagnostics married with one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies. This concept of companion diagnostics and biomarkers, and matching the therapy to the patients based on genomics, proteomics, and other sorts of things, very much resonates with the company. It's very much what they've embraced and have committed to as a strategy.

Dr. Topol: They are the only pharma company that has purchased sequencing companies and, of course, [acquired] Genentech. And as you say, you've really been out there in terms of pushing this individualized-medicine frontier -- it's great.

Dr. Reed: Yes, it goes back at least to 1991 when they acquired polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology[2] from Cetus Corporation. It really made the whole molecular diagnostics field possible. They've been willing to make big bets and to take big, big risks on technologies; they have embraced this concept that you've talked about so much in your own writings -- personalized healthcare. I was thinking about what is the platform from which to really influence what personalized healthcare is going to mean in reality, and Roche seemed like a great platform with which to do that -- to be able to help physicians like you to define what the next products of the future are going to look like: a diagnostic married with a therapeutic for the right patient and the right medicine at the right time. It's very exciting to be able to do it from that side of the street as opposed to the more academic hospital side. So, I will be working with people like you.

Dr. Topol: With respect to big bets, they didn't have to make a big bet with you. You are an incredible catch for Roche and for the life-science industry. It's fantastic to see you on that side, and I'm sure the academic community looks forward to an opportunity to collaborate with you. We're going to miss you sorely here in San Diego, but we hope you'll come back and visit -- maybe when you're training for your triathlons.

Dr. Reed: I'll be in San Diego frequently. We have so much great work going on here in the life-science area with one of the largest biotech clusters here. Like lots of large pharma companies, Roche is very dependent on the interactions with the other centers of innovation to help inform new ideas about targets and to license new product opportunities. You know, we supplement our own internal pipeline through what we can in license from partners, technology platforms, etc. I'm sure I will be here on business, if not for personal reasons, on a regular basis.


Dr. Topol: That's great, and we sure look forward to that. I just want to congratulate you on your extraordinary career, for all of the years at Sanford-Burnham, and all of the work you've done in the cancer biology space. I wish you the very best going forward at Roche in Switzerland. Thanks so much for joining us. Thank you for joining Medscape One-on-One. We've really had a fun time hearing the story of John Reed, and we look forward to a lot more of these in the future. Thank you.


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