Although a majority of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology community hails from the world of academia, the society also has a rich and diverse set of members in the industry sector. In this special Science Focus, we profile just a few of these “industrious” individuals to showcase the scope of research being carried out in this arena: Bruce Morimoto, John Purcell, Jay Slack and Patricia Weber. (Titled "ASBMB’s Industrial Revolution" in print version.)
Vice President for Drug Development
Not long ago, Bruce Morimoto was presenting research at a conference in which the speaker ahead of him described his 400-employee biotech firm as a “small company.” When it was Morimoto’s turn to speak, the V.P. for drug development at 20-member Allon wryly noted, “Well, if they’re small, we must be micro.”
Not that Morimoto would want it any other way. “Working at a really small company is much like running a lab in academia,” he says. “There’s a real sense of ownership, and everyone on the team is empowered to do whatever it takes to get the job done; that kind of environment fits my personality well.”
At Allon, which specializes in combating neurodegenerative diseases, Morimoto’s job entails moving drugs from discovery to market, which means he oversees a little bit of everything, from basic chemistry to manufacturing.
Morimoto never envisioned having such responsibilities when he was an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles; in fact, back then, he believed his only options for pursuing his fondness of science were to become a physician or engineer.
But, his chemistry lab teaching assistant introduced him to undergraduate research, and his eyes opened up to a whole new world of possibilities.
He continued on the academic path, first getting his doctorate at UCLA (finishing the undergraduate project he started), then moving on to a postdoctoral fellowship with Daniel Koshland at the University of California, Berkeley and finally a faculty position at Purdue University.
Life seemed settled, but a few years into his professorship, Morimoto headed to the San Francisco Bay Area for a two-day consulting trip with a biotech company. Once he was done, the company surprised him by offering him a position.