If you feel strongly about whether the chimp should be the next genome assigned for sequencing by NHGRI, talk to Robert Tepper. The Millennium Pharmaceuticals CSO and executive VP of discovery is the Secretary of Health’s latest appointee to the 15-member National Advisory Council on Human Genome Research, which will help direct the future of the federal genomics program.
During his four-year term with the council, Tepper will keep his position at Millennium, where he oversees the drug development process from gene identification to creating small and biotherapeutic molecules to delivering them to clinical trials. Outside of the usual hassles of air travel between Cambridge, Mass., and Washington, DC, the New York native does not foresee any complications. “The time commitment is significant but not unduly so, particularly because it meshes so well with the problems I’m thinking about at Millennium,” Tepper says.
“I’ve always had the vision that if we’re going to move the applications of the genome back to the bedside for the good of the patient, it was going to require a very strong commitment and partnership between academia, government, and industry,” he adds.
Tepper, 46, was previously with the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School. In the late ’80s, he first ventured into private industry by co-founding Cell Genesys.
Seeing the potential for industry to help patients, Tepper joined Millennium in 1994 as its director of biology. “Academic medical centers, while excellent at basic research,” he says, “in most cases there’s no path to really bring results from the laboratory or even the clinic completely back to the patient in terms of a new drug.”
Tepper sees his latest appointment as an additional opportunity to bridge genomics and medicine. “The work of the NHGRI over the last several years has been monumental in really defining not only the human genome, but other genomes,” he says. “The challenge now to apply that knowledge and really define even broader horizons is just a wonderful opportunity.”
— Diana Jong