Postdoc in the Bayer – DKFZ Joint Lab
Hello! My name is Rafael Carretero and I work as a scientific manager at the Bayer – DKFZ (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum) Joint Lab in Cancer Immunotherapy. We are developing new therapies that help the immune system to fight cancer. I’d like to share my experience of Bayer with you and explain what we do here.
I am a biologist with a background in cancer immunology. I’ve always been interested in cancer, trying to understand how malignant cells can grow despite the body’s control mechanisms. I did my PhD in 2011, studying the mechanisms that tumors develop to avoid being recognized by the immune system. After that, I moved to Germany to investigate how immune cells can be used to reject established tumors. However, I felt that this knowledge was not being used efficiently enough to create new treatments for cancer patients. That’s why I joined Bayer’s DKFZ Joint Lab as a postdoc in September 2015, and the results have exceeded my expectations!
The Bayer – DKFZ Joint Lab in Cancer Immunotherapy
Here in the Joint Lab we are privileged to be able to work together with top scientists from Bayer and DKFZ. The Bayer DKFZ collaboration helps researchers from the DKFZ to translate their research into new medicines using Bayer’s expertise in drug development, while Bayer scientists benefit from the expertise and new ideas of the DKFZ colleagues. Since 2013, the Bayer – DKFZ Joint Lab in Cancer Immunotherapy has been a hub for tumor immunology expertise and techniques that help researchers from both sides. We are currently working on nine different drug candidates and for each one we have a team made up of a DKFZ and a Bayer research group.
All the drugs we are developing have the same goal: to help the patient’s immune system fight the cancer. Our immune system protects us from pathogens, but it’s also able to recognize and eliminate tumor cells. Unfortunately, the tumors acquire mechanisms that allow them to escape the immune system (it’s the only way they can grow). Recent therapies have demonstrated that blocking these “escape mechanisms” allows the immune system to eliminate advanced cancer, curing a significant proportion of patients where conventional therapies have failed. Our goal is to target more of these “escape mechanisms” so that more and more cancer patients will be able to benefit from this promising new anticancer therapy.
My experience at Bayer
As I mentioned before, working for Bayer has proven to be a great experience. Right from the start I’ve been involved in the development of new immune techniques and met many excellent researchers from Bayer and DKFZ. Thanks to the continuous communication between the partners, I’ve learned a lot about drug development and new fields within immunology. I’m always pleasantly surprised to see how everyone openly discusses new ideas and incorporates them into the projects. A proposal of mine for a new potential target protein was accepted and incorporated into the portfolio even though I’m still relatively new. At Bayer you can be sure that your efforts and dedication will pay off! I am currently the scientific manager of the Joint Lab, which allows me to be involved in more immunotherapy projects and learn new skills. Although I cannot spend as much time in the lab as before, collaborating with new people and presenting our results outside of the lab makes up for that. I can recommend this experience to anyone, and I think anyone on our team would do the same!
Bayer Alumni Meeting & Otto Bayer Award in Berlin
I was recently invited to give a presentation at the Bayer Alumni Meeting. We talked about novel pathways in cancer therapy and discussed novel therapies based on epigenomics and the immune response. The discussion with the audience was very productive. The whole event was very well organized and it was really nice to see the interest of young students and researchers, and to talk with them. We even found some candidates for an alumni group in our lab. Actually the meeting helped me to better understand how Bayer is working in other areas and to get to know colleagues. The workshop was rounded off by a talk by Werner Baumann, the CEO of Bayer, in which he expressed his commitment to investing in young, talented researchers and social projects.
After the meeting, the Otto Bayer Award 2016 ceremony took place. Prof. Dr. Dirk Trauner was honored for his contribution to photopharmacology. He demonstrated that photosensitive molecules can be used to develop more specific drugs and potentially cure some kinds of blindness. Congratulations, Prof. Dr. Dirk Trauner on a well-earned prize!
My plan for the next couple of years is to help to consolidate the Bayer – DKFZ Joint Lab as a vital part of generating new immunotherapy drugs. In the long run, I would like to grow career-wise and become involved in more projects. But more importantly, I would love to see our new immune treatments help to cure cancer patients!
This post is also available in: German