Get to Know Our CSO – Barbra Sasu, Ph.D.
August 27, 2019
Barbra Sasu, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer
What was your first job?
My first job was when I was 14 and I worked in a pharmacy at the photography counter. That was the closest thing to a science job in my hometown, which was in the middle of the countryside in Alfreton, England.
I had many jobs before I completed university. I worked at a cheese counter at the local super market (that was my favorite job), and I spent summers working in the factories. That was boring work that reinforced the need for me to do well in school and work hard to have a different future.
My first science job was a summer internship at my university biotech lab. I usually found something science-related to do when at university. My job was to recombine two plasmids to make a luciferase gene for bioluminescent luciferase assays. To do the assays I literally took freeze dried fireflies, pulled their butts off and crushed them up to make the reagent. It was a fascinating summer.
My first full-time job was at Amgen, after I did my postdoc. The day I walked in the door, I was asked to determine why some patients don’t respond to erythropoietin (EPO) when they have anemia. I sat in my office for a couple of months reading everything I could, created a theory about it, and spent the next eight years coming up with a product for it. It was nice being able to take something all the way from a textbook discovery to a potential therapeutic.
Why did you join Allogene?
I joined Allogene because I believe CAR Ts are going to transform the practice of medicine, and I want to be a part of that.
What is your favorite Allogene moment so far?
Working together to get that first IND filed. The teamwork was excellent – everyone pulled together. We set a very tough goal for ourselves and I am proud we were able to accomplish it. I think the team atmosphere here is phenomenal.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of what we’ve accomplished here in research to develop our CAR T pipeline. We have pulled together an exceptional group of scientists, who work collaboratively and believe strongly in Allogene’s vision. I’m very proud to work with everyone on this team.
Who is your greatest inspiration? (personally or professionally)?
Every mentor I’ve ever had is an inspiration. These people go above and beyond to not just do their own job, but to intentionally bring others up. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for my mentors, and I strive to give the same to those around me.
A few of my mentors include my lab supervisor in my Ph.D. program, who taught me a lot about rigor and precision; my department head at Amgen, who taught me that accurateness is paramount (and that even typos on slides matter); and my direct supervisor at Amgen, who was not only a scientific inspiration, but whose death from glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer, makes me see on a personal level how important it is to target these small indication, but grievous, medical conditions.
What is your hope for the future of cancer treatment?
I’m focused on durability of response, so my hope is that cancer becomes a disease that you live with or eliminate, not a disease that kills you.