Martha Vincent is Vice President, Clinical Research and Development at Agensys, a biotechnology company headquartered in Santa Monica that researches and develops new cancer therapies. With a PhD in pharmacology, and an expertise in clinical, regulatory and medical affairs, phrases like “monoclonal antibodies” and “antibody drug conjugates” just roll off Martha’s tongue.
Being a leader and an innovator is second nature for Martha. Before joining the Agensys team, she spent 17 years at Amgen where she was the first person to work on Neupogen, a drug that increases white blood cells to help fight infection in people undergoing chemotherapy. Martha now leads the clinical development of proprietary “target antigens” at Agensys, changing the way cancer is treated.
Antigens are foreign particles that the body’s immune system tries to wipe out through the production of antibodies. Agensys is researching and testing the specific antigens that are identified with the different cancers (i.e. kidney, bladder, prostate). They can then develop specialized antibodies that are delivered intravenously, and only attack the cancer cells. These therapeutic antibodies are much gentler on the body than traditional chemo that uses a “scorched earth” approach, killing everything in its path.
Asked about what advice she could give other women interested in getting into the biotech world, Martha indicated that a medical degree is no longer a necessity. Now, people with any type of science background can find opportunities in areas such as regulatory affairs, biostatistics, data management, and toxicology.
And if Agencys’s new 160,000-square-foot research and development facility being built in Santa Monica is any indication of the growth of the biotechnology sector, it’s a good time to update your resume!