Roche has named Aviv Regev as the new head of Genentech research and early development (gRED). Regev, who currently works at the Broad Institute, will take over as head of gRED when Michael Varney retires at the end of July.
In Regev, Genentech has hired a leader who has spent her career using new technologies to expand understanding of biological processes. Roche highlighted Regev’s assays for sequencing RNA in single cells and associated machine learning algorithms as an example of how she has leveraged advances in technology to generate new insights in fields including immunology, neurobiology and cancer.
Having received a Ph.D. in computational biology from Tel Aviv University, Regev went on to join the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she runs a laboratory that studies biological circuits, gene regulation and evolution.
At Genentech, Regev will step into the shoes of Varney, who is retiring in the summer after 15 years at the company. Varney joined Genentech as vice president for small molecule drug discovery in 2005 and went on to replace Richard Scheller as head of gRED at the start of 2015. On Varney’s watch, drugs including anti-TIGIT antibody tiragolumab moved into and through early clinical development.
The lag between the work gRED does and product sales means the success of Varney's time as head of the unit from a commercial perspective will only become clear in the future. Earlier this year, Varney made a presentation (PDF) at a Roche investor relations event in which he discussed a gRED pipeline featuring 13 assets in phase 2 and 3 trials, plus further candidates in earlier stages of development.
Responsibility for overseeing the progress of those earlier stage programs will soon fall on Regev. In a statement to disclose the appointment, Roche CEO Severin Schwan said Regev has “a rare combination of expertise” that he thinks will “unlock even more possibilities in data-based drug discovery and development.”