We are delighted to announce that Dr. Mao Mao has joined WuXi AppTec as Senior Vice President of Translational Bioscience and Diagnostics. Prior to WuXi, he was a Research Fellow leading biomarker and molecular diagnostics efforts at Pfizer Oncology Research. He is also President of Asian Cancer Research Group (ACRG), an independent not-for-profit organization jointly established by Eli Lilly, Merck and Pfizer. This week we sat down with Dr. Mao to discuss his career and thoughts on the industry.
What inspired you to study medicine and genetics?
It’s cliched but I was trained as a physician so I could help people. And as I advanced through my training I realized genetics and oncology research, particularly into the cancer genome, was a way to help millions of people. Once I saw the potential of genomics, I knew I had to be involved.
What are some of the proudest moments of your career so far?
Early in my career I was fortunate to be part of the Rosetta Inpharmatics team that worked on a 70-gene breast cancer prognosis test. It became the first test of its kind to win US FDA approval. Now I have a couple of cutting-edge and validated molecular diagnostic assays that I will develop at WuXi for China FDA approval.
What attracted you to work at WuXi?
Wherever I’ve worked it’s always been about the science. At WuXi I see the same commitment to cutting-edge science and technology that attracted me to Merck and Pfizer. Ultimately it goes back to where I think my work will make the biggest difference, and WuXi is at the top of that list.
How do you see WuXi’s open platform reshaping R&D?
It’s incredibly exciting. In the past, cutting-edge drug discovery and development technologies were out of the reach of many startups. Now anyone can access the capabilities they need to discover drugs efficiently. I think it’s democratizing drug discovery.
What role will genomics data come to play in the development of new cancer treatments?
In the near term its biggest effect will be in identifying actionable mutations. Once we understand which genetic changes are driving progression of cancer, we can make better use of existing drugs and begin to develop more targeted therapeutics. It’s about honing in on the causes of tumorigenesis. From a physician’s perspective, it’s about to truly apply personalized treatment based on each individual patient’s mutation profile.