August 2010

Member Spotlight

Spotlight---OlsonMatthew Olson 

Principle Research Scientist, Johnson and Johnson 

How long have you been an ASBMB member?
I’ve been a member since 2002.

What do you study?
I’m part of a team engaged in the development of cell-free and cell-based assays, which take advantage of label-free detection technology to monitor the enzymatic and biophysical properties of enzymes and proteins with their appropriate substrates and ligands. My role is to provide complete kinetic characterization of enzymes and evaluate signal transduction systems using substrates/effectors that are as “in vivo-like” as possible. Then, I determine the ability of small molecule antagonists and agonists to modulate these macromolecular systems.

Why did you go into industry?
I received a job offer from Wyeth Pharmaceuticals during my second postdoctoral fellowship. My wife and I considered other options at the time, but we made the decision to go to Pearl River, N.Y., where I joined the infectious disease department.

How do you feel ASBMB could best help scientists in industry?
Partnership and synergy.

There is a need for industry and academics to partner. Industry needs academic innovation. Academia needs industry to develop that innovation for drug discovery. Combined, they will create jobs for young scientists to carry the baton passed to them in both fields. ASBMB already is playing a major role in bridge building between academics and industry by using their current platforms: LIPIDMAPS, PSI, the ASBMB journals and the Experimental Biology meeting as a whole.

Where do you see research in industry going in five to 10 years?
Personalized medicine has been given much fanfare in recent years. This very well may be the future because there is a need for drug development taking genetic differences into account. Other areas gaining popularity in the coming years may be epigenetics and stem cells. These technologies are being evaluated for intervention of cancer and metabolic diseases. Another topic which may make resurgence is anti-infective drug discovery.

Has the downturn in the economy affected your job or your company?
The easy answer is, “What industry has not been affected?” All industries have been under pressure to increase efficacy. I think the more relevant issues affecting my job and the pharmaceutical industry as a whole are monitoring patent expirations, halting patent infringement and producing a robust pipeline. Although patent expirations are a given, rule updating could help. On the other hand, patent infringement is an undesirable reality with unpredictable consequences resulting in significant revenue losses translated into the research and development of an organization. R&D assets protected by patents are linked closely to current corporate profits. Often, unknown to the general public, is the fact that my industry reinvests up to 40 percent of its profits into R&D for a robust pipeline. Therefore, any unpredicted loss in revenue due to infringement undoubtedly will translate into budget reorganization and affect the future pipeline. Without a pipeline, we can’t exist.

Do you think your academic training prepared you for working in industry?
Yes. I was well trained by my thesis advisor and now mentor, Laurie Kaguni. Further academic training involved postdoctoral fellowships with Charles McHenry and Rafael Fridman. With Rafi, I also was privileged to work with Shahriar Mobashery. Because of their partnership in basic science pursuits, I learned the value and importance of being part of a team: “To go fast, you go alone. To go far, you go together.”

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