July 2011

Meet some of our members in industry

Oliver Chao 

Sanofi-Aventis Exploratory R&D   
Paris-Chilly Mazarin, France 

How long have you been an ASBMB member? 
You are trying to guess my age? Well, let’s say more than 10 years now.

What is the focus of your company? 
Patient-centered health care and therapeutic development

What is the focus of your research? 
Actually, the foci of my research: I am in full-blown exploration in the fields of sensory systems, designed-synthetic biology and bio-inspired devices. In addition, I pay special attention to circadian rhythm and neuro-oncology.

Why did you go into industry? 
When I landed in Paris (relocating with my wife, who’s French), it was impossible for non-European citizens to obtain permanent (tenured) positions in the French research institutions. So after a year of a postdoctoral fellowship at INSERM/College de France, when the opportunity to join a pharmaceutical company in the Paris area appeared I did not hesitate. In retrospect, I think I have more flexibility to be involved in wide spectrums of biological sciences because of being in pharma R&D. Naturally, if your scientific interest is very specific or your goal is Nobel-ish, industry may deprive you of your focus.

Where do you see research in industry going in five to 10 years? 
As fun as prediction is, the pharma industry or the pharma research paradigm is predictable only in the frame of about two to three years. As far as my company is concerned, I think the general strategy of patient-centered drug discovery is a very wise and feasible goal for pharma researchers to achieve in five to 10 years.

With the economy improving, are you seeing any changes in your job or company? 
Pharma industry does not really reflect closely the main street/Wall Street pulse. What I believe is that through open-minded adaptation and well-thought-out collaboration, we can face any challenge, any change.


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