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Genentech's retiring R&D head to be replaced by MIT executive

Published on: 15/05/20

Michael Varney, industry veteran and Head of Research & Development at Genentech, has announced he is to leave the role and retire from the company after 15 years at the end of July.

In his place, the Roche subsidiary has selected Aviv Regev of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She will begin in her new role at the beginning of August.

Varney took up his most recent role at Genentech in 2015, a decade after he joined the company in 2005 as its Head of Small Molecule Discovery. Given the long timelines inherent in clinical development, the company said that much of the work conducted by Varney during his time in his most recent role will come to light in the coming years; in particular, the company aims to present the first data on the anti-TIGIT antibody tiragolumab, developed by Varney and his team, at the virtual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in late May.

Prior to his time with Genentech, Varney worked in increasingly senior roles at Agouron Pharmaceuticals.

His incoming successor Regev currently holds a position on the executive leadership team of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, as well as being an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, co-Chair of the international Human Cell Atlas project and founding Director of the Klarman Cell Observatory at Broad Institute.

Roche outlined Regev’s impressive achievements in the announcement: “Through her pioneering efforts she is a leader in deciphering molecular circuits that govern cells, tissues and organs in health and their malfunction in disease. In particular, she has pioneered assays for RNA sequencing in single-cells, machine learning algorithms for distilling biological knowledge from the resulting information, and many of the first demonstrations of how to yield foundational new insights into an extraordinarily wide 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.”

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