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Drew Honors Breakthrough Cancer Treatment Drugs in Virtual Ceremony

Drew students get up-close look at drug discovery process

October 2020 – Drew University students got the chance to learn about drug discovery breakthroughs straight from the source during the virtual Heroes in Drug Discovery Award ceremony.

The ceremony, hosted by Drew’s Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti (RISE) program, which pairs undergraduate science students with retired industry professionals in the research lab, began with RISE director Dr. Vincent Gullo presenting the award to Seattle Genetics VP of Chemistry and Distinguished Research Fellow Dr. Peter Senter.

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Jackson-Pollock-Image
Senter likened portions of the drug discovery process to a Jackson Pollock painting.

Channeling Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Jackson Pollock, and Gary Larson, Senter took Drew students, faculty, and staff through the drug discovery process—from research and development to clinical trials to successful treatments for patients. Focusing on his experience utilizing antibody drug conjugates, a method to target anti-cancer drugs directly to tumors, Senter described groundbreaking treatments for lymphoma, breast cancer, and bladder cancer.

Following the presentation, Senter took questions from Drew students and offered advice about science research and careers.

“As an undergrad, it is incredibly beneficial is to get experience in the lab, either with professors—like at Drew, who are doing research related to biotechnology—or do internships in the summer where you can really see what’s going on and learn how people think in the pharmaceutical industry,” he said before expanding on the variety of science students his company hires for internships and full-time jobs.

Senter beamed reflecting on the careers that former interns have had—from upper-level positions within the company to professorships at renowned research universities—and discussed the differences between working at a large pharmaceutical company compared to a small biotech company.

Last year, RISE awarded Vertex Pharmaceuticals for their groundbreaking work with a cystic fibrosis treatment drug just one day after the company received FDA approval.

The event was made possible through the generous support of Pfizer and the Independent College Fund of New Jersey (ICFNJ).

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