New Vice Chancellor to Nurture Inventions, Bring Products to Market at More Advanced Stage

By Laura Kurtzman

Harold E. “Barry” Selick
Harold E. “Barry” Selick, PhD – UCSF’s new vice chancellor for business development, innovation and partnerships – has deep biotech industry knowledge and longstanding ties to the University. Photo by Noah Berger

In a bold move to bring its life science inventions to market with higher value, so they are more likely to reach patients and better support the university’s mission, UC San Francisco has hired Harold E. “Barry” Selick, PhD, as its first vice chancellor for business development, innovation and partnerships.

Selick will oversee proof-of-concept studies of promising UCSF life science inventions – which encompass drug molecules, device prototypes, digital health applications, and more – to gather evidence on which inventions are most likely to help patients as new therapies, diagnostics or software.

One aim is to keep inventions from languishing on companies’ shelves, which often occurs when firms license early-stage inventions but do not invest the necessary resources to develop them. Another is to increase the licensing revenues earned by UCSF inventions: companies are likely to pay more for innovations with more proven value, Selick said.

“It’s high-risk, high-reward,” Selick said. “But we’re going to bias the odds of success in our favor by working with the smartest people in the world: scientists from UCSF and, on our advisory board, some of the most accomplished investors from Silicon Valley, who will be helping us cherry-pick the most promising programs. With this strategy, UCSF can begin to invest more fully in itself and develop even more technologies to benefit patients.”

For drug candidates or devices, proof-of-concept studies could take the form of small-scale clinical trials to demonstrate that they have adequate safety and efficacy in patients for a licensing company to launch larger, more definitive clinical trials. Similarly, digital health applications and diagnostic technologies could be advanced to the point where they could be evaluated in real-world scenarios prior to undergoing the more rigorous development required for commercialization.

Deep Industry Knowledge, Longstanding UCSF Ties

A former pharmaceutical company CEO with broad biotech experience, Selick has deep industry knowledge and longstanding ties to UCSF, where he was a postdoctoral scholar in the lab of one of the nation’s foremost scientists, biochemist Bruce Alberts, PhD, a member and former president of the National Academy of Sciences.

Selick has spent much of his career raising money from venture capital firms and institutional investors. At UCSF, he hopes to pursue a different strategy: attracting philanthropy to develop a fund to shepherd promising inventions further into development so that inventors and the university can retain more of the value of their technologies before seeking licensees or partnerships.

“Barry has both scientific and industry acumen, and that makes him an invaluable guide to the marketplace, which can be so unforgiving and yet is the place where all ideas must succeed if they are going to make a difference in patients’ lives,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. “We are tremendously excited to have someone of his caliber in this new role.”

As a bench scientist fresh out of his postdoc with Alberts, Selick co-invented the technology to create “fully humanized” antibody therapeutics (replacing mouse protein sequences with their human counterparts to avert an immune response against these drugs), an advance that contributed to the development of a series of groundbreaking drugs.

Turning Scientific Findings into Products

He and his colleagues at Protein Design Labs (“PDL BioPharma”) first applied this technology to create a fully humanized antibody that was licensed to and commercialized by Roche for the prevention of kidney transplant rejection. This product, Zenapax, became the first fully humanized antibody therapeutic approved by the FDA. Later, fully humanized antibodies formed the basis of the transformative breast-cancer drug Herceptin, and of Avastin, used to treat a range of cancers.

Selick, who was a finalist for the European Patent Organization’s “Inventor of the Year Award” in 2014 for this work, was also CEO of Threshold Pharmaceuticals, which specializes in cancer therapeutics. He serves on the boards of directors of companies that span early drug discovery and technology development to commercialization, including PDL BioPharma and Catalyst Biosciences, which was founded in 2002 based upon the work of UCSF scientists.

He also worked at Affymax Research Institute, a biotechnology company that became the drug discovery technology development center of Glaxo Wellcome plc. Selick served as Affymax’s vice president of research, before leaving to co-found and run Camitro Corporation, a venture capital-backed biotech company focused on developing technologies to support drug lead optimization.

“I am delighted that Barry has been recruited to be a vice chancellor for innovation,” said Regis Kelly, PhD, Byers Family Distinguished Professor at UCSF and executive director of QB3, the University of California’s hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in the life sciences, with campuses at UCSF, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. “He is in a position to ensure that UCSF is seen as the premier life science entrepreneurship university in the country, thus complementing its prestige in research and clinical care.”

Selick will report to UCSF Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Daniel Lowenstein, MD. His role also will include leading the efforts of Industry Alliances and Program Management, the Office of Technology Management, the UCSF Catalyst Program, and the Entrepreneurship Center, among others.

Selick will earn an annual base salary of $420,000, none of which will come from state funds. Additional compensation information is available upon request.

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland – and other partner and affiliated hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the Bay Area.