Michael Varney, PhD


Michael Varney, PhD, is a pioneer drug discoverer and biotech leader with deep expertise in diverse drug platform types, including cellular therapies. Currently, Dr. Varney is an Advisor, Board member and SAB member for ERASCA, Pardes Biosciences, Interline and Atomwise.

Most recently, he served as Genentech’s Executive Vice President and the Head of Research and Early Development (gRED) in addition to serving as a member of the Roche Corporate Executive Committee in Basel. Under Dr. Varney’s leadership at Genentech, gRED teams discovered and developed successful medicines including Venclexta with AbbVie, the first bcl-2 inhibitor and Polivy, an antibody drug conjugate for the treatment of DLBCL. Pioneering molecules in the clinic include Mosunetuzumab, a bispecific antibody targeting CD20, and GDC-9545, a next generation estrogen receptor degrader. Dr. Varney expanded the organization’s drug discovery capabilities to include small molecules and built an organization that produces more than 40% of the company’s development portfolio today, including the marketed anticancer agents Erivedge and Cotellic.

As one of the original 15 employees at Agouron, a San Diego-based biotech, Dr. Varney built a team that developed protein-structure based design, a novel approach to drug discovery used globally today. His team launched Viracept, an HIV protease inhibitor that achieved the highest first year launch sales of any biotech product in 1997. His leadership at Agouron resulted in the discovery of many anti-cancer agents, including Xalkori and Inlyta, a drug that won the American Chemical Society’s Heroes of Chemistry Award in 2018.

Dr. Varney earned a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry from the California Institute of Technology and carried out a Postdoctoral Fellowship with the American Cancer Society at Columbia University in New York, NY, and received the Chairman’s Award of Distinction from the American Federation for Aging Research in 2013. Dr. Varney holds a BS in chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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