Princeton Catalysis Initiative Announces Collaboration with Genentech

By Wendy Plump
Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020

The Princeton Catalysis Initiative (PCI) announces a new corporate partnership with Genentech, a biotechnology company based in South San Francisco and a member of the Roche Group. 

This is PCI’s fifth partnership in just over two years. It will enable mission-inspired research through five new collaborations with faculty in the Departments of Chemistry, Molecular Biology, and Chemical and Biological Engineering, raising the Initiative’s total funded commitments to over $65M.  

PCI has drawn exceptional teams from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Janssen, Merck, and now Genentech to campus, reinforcing and expanding Princeton University’s innovation ecosystem with each new partner. Collaborations stitch together the expertise of scholars, researchers, and industry to explore new synergies. Optimistically projected at its soft launch in 2018 to reach 150 collaborations, PCI has instead grown into a powerhouse now on track to enable more than 500 projects across 11 departments at Princeton. 

The initial Genentech projects include novel formulations for drug delivery; earth-abundant metals for catalysis in pharmaceutical manufacturing; photo redox catalysis that can image molecules; and the complex interactions within microbial communities that could reveal new ways to turn “bugs into drugs.”

Genentech Campus
The Genentech campus in South San Francisco, California. Genentech is PCI’s fifth corporate partner. 
Photo courtesy of Genentech

“Genentech is committed to delivering breakthrough therapies that improve and enhance the lives of patients. With this goal in mind, PCI provides access to cutting-edge technologies that we believe can accelerate new drug discovery programs in our portfolio,” said Wendy Young, Senior Vice President, Small Molecule Drug Discovery at Genentech.

“Additionally, Genentech's research organization has a close connection to Princeton and PCI. We have hired numerous accomplished scientists that were trained at Princeton and so we know firsthand Princeton’s reputation and track record for innovation,” Young added. “It’s a terrific opportunity and a special collaboration for us.”

PCI Director David MacMillan, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry, said he was “over the moon delighted” about the partnership.

“Genentech is really a special company in so many different ways, and has always valued basic research. They have a tremendous group of chemists, biologists, and engineers, so for Princeton to be associated with them is incredibly valuable,” said MacMillan. “In addition, we’re on the other side of the continent from them. It speaks volumes that they felt what we were doing here is exciting enough to come across the country and partner with PCI.”

Through the mechanism of annual symposium flash-presentations, industry and corporate leaders get to see what scientists at Princeton are working on and can connect to fundamental research that enables their own goals. The Princeton PIs joining forces with Genentech in this latest funding cycle are Robert Prud’homme, professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Paul Chirik, Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Chemistry; MacMillan; and Mohamed Donia, associate professor of molecular biology.

Genentech has been at the forefront of the biotechnology industry for more than 40 years, using human genetic information to develop novel medicines for serious and life-threatening diseases. Transformational discoveries include the first targeted antibody for cancer and the first medicine for primary progressive multiple sclerosis. Genentech, which has been a member of the Roche Group since 2009, is based in South San Francisco, California.

The partnership was announced by the University.