Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Genentech's Desmond-Hellmann May Take Helm At UCSF


After a 2 a.m. start today, I thought I was done with work for the week and I was already cruising into the weekend. But, for this, I don't mind spending some time working from home on a Friday afternoon.

Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann

Well, it didn't take long. A little more than a month after Roche swallowed Genentech, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann may be headed out the door sooner than anyone thought. She's the company's President of Product Development and the one who many credit as being the driving force behind Genentech's successful drug development track record over the past several years. As one veteran biotech analyst once told me, "No one knows how to design oncology clinical trials better than Sue."

I've always thought her third act (she was a practicing oncologist before going corporate) would be as the CEO of a big pharma. Her name was always on the rumored shortlist when spots opened up in recent years. But I was wrong. She's taking the untold millions of dollars she made at Genentech and appears to be going to the much lower-paying world of academia. You had to know something was up, perhaps, when Roche announced a management shakeup at Genentech and moved the good doctor into an "advisory role."

The University of California system this afternoon issued this press releaseannouncing that Dr. Desmond-Hellmann has been nominated to be the next Chancellor of UC San Francisco. The UC Board of Regents will decide whether to approve her for the position at its meeting next week. If the board hires Dr. Desmond-Hellmann, she'd take over the campus, known for its clinical research, on August 3rd.

She's quoted in the press release as saying, "I began my career at UCSF, and my heart has never left it. I am delighted and humbled to have the Regents' consideration for the position of chancellor at this truly great institution. My life's work has been focused on making a difference for patients, and I cannot think of a better place than UCSF to carry that work forward." Well, I can, but USC isn't looking for a new president.

Anyway, the UC says the Regents will talk about salary behind closed doors and then vote on it in public. I'm almost certain she doesn't need the money and isn't doing it for that.

I hope she won't mind, but I wanted to share an email Dr. Desmond- Hellmann sent me last month in response to this blog that I did the day Genentech formally became apart of Roche.

" incredibly touching to me," she wrote. "(It) was a reminder to me of why I am consistently inspired to try to do a better job, as too many patients need better therapies. So I am writing to convey a big thanks to you for the kind words and for capturing some of the spirit of why being in biotech (and hopefully covering it) is special beyond the business aspect."

I don't think you'll need it, but good luck next week, Sue. UCSF will be fortunate to have you.

Now, back to starting my weekend. No more work, alright?

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