Translating scientific breakthroughs into relevant cancer therapies
Steven Grossenbacher is a Ph.D. candidate in the integrative pathobiology graduate group. He has a BS in neurobiology, physiology and behavior from UC Davis. Prior to his graduate studies, Grossenbacher held an in vivo technologist position at the Jackson laboratory, where he was responsible for designing and executing several preclinical studies in a contract research setting.
He is interested in the use of genetically engineered immune cell-based therapies to specifically target malignant cells, while sparing healthy cells. He envisions that one day cellular immune therapies will become an off-the-shelf treatment for many cancer types.
Note: This interview was conducted during Steven Grossenbacher’s tenure as a 2015/16 Business Development Fellow.
What’s important about your research—and where do you hope to take it?
My research is focused on understanding how the immune system can be utilized to fight cancer. Cancer immunotherapy has an advantage over traditional chemotherapy or radiation because the immune system is capable of delivering potent, long-term, anti-tumor responses. The development of immune-modulating therapies is one of the fastest-growing segments in oncology research and development. My work will prepare me for a career in the biotechnology industry with a focus on cancer immunotherapy development and commercialization.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
I am passionate about the opportunity to work in an area of cancer research that has brought forth some of the most effective treatments of the last 20 years. I am also driven by the translational potential of my research. I work directly with patient tumor samples and can observe in real time how different treatments impact their tumor cells in vitro and in vivo.
How will being in the Business Development Fellows program help you to change the world?
The BD Fellows program will give me the business perspective I need to excel in a career developing and commercializing novel cancer immunotherapies. The combination of a strong scientific background with business acumen gained through this program will allow me to better understand the landscape of the immune-oncology industry in order to translate scientific breakthroughs into relevant therapies.
Now at midpoint in the program, what is the most important thing you have learned—and the most critical connection you have made?
The most important thing I have learned thus far is the value of assumptions in projecting success or failure of new business opportunities. This way of thinking lies in stark contrast to basic research, where progress is built around the accuracy and precision of past results. The most critical connections I have made have been with the other Fellows and with people who are interested in the business of science who I met through the Entrepreneurship Academy and the MBA courses.