Vadim Y Dudkin, PhD.
Director, Janssen Discovery Sciences, Janssen R&D.
How did you become interested in the field of oligonucleotides?
I first became exposed to oligonucleotide delivery while at Merck upon the acquisition of Sirna in 2006. Part of my work at the time involved glyco- and bioconjugations, and I helped the early RNAi team explore conjugate delivery opportunities. The promise of addressing previously undruggable targets through RNAi coupled with difficulties of intracellular delivery captivated my imagination. A few years later, I joined the RNAi Tx group at Merck full-time, and have been involved with nucleic acid delivery ever since – now at Janssen, I am leading a team exploring targeted delivery science with a special focus on nucleic acids.
Who were your early mentors?
I was fortunate to have many fantastic mentors in my early industry career. For drug discovery in general, I owe a great deal of knowledge to Steve Young, a highly successful drug hunter whose enthusiasm for helping patients through solving most challenging discovery problems was truly contagious. I learned a lot about RNA therapeutics and siRNA biology from Laura Sepp-Lorenzino. Laura’s passion for the field has been a big influence on me and many others and I was lucky enough to have had several excellent collaborations with Laura and her teams.
How did you become involved in OTS?
I became interested in OTS initially through attending the annual meeting. A great combination of talks, posters, and just peer to peer interaction on both fundamental and applied aspects of oligo science, the OTS meeting continues to be the key forum for learning and exchanging ideas in this rapidly evolving field.
Why do you continue to support the OTS?
OTS has an incredibly important aim of fostering interdisciplinary research in the nucleic acid sciences with an ultimate focus on therapeutic development. The OTS mission has been and will continue to be relevant for the field and for anyone serious about connecting and translating discoveries in different nucleic acid related sciences into medicines.
What is special about the type of research/work you’ve done?
Our team’s focus is delivery – we discover and implement novel specific intracellular delivery approaches both in the direct conjugate and in the nanoparticle space. While our projects encompass multiple modalities, nucleic acids are a significant focus given the critical importance of delivery in this field. Working at Janssen, where collaboration is truly in the DNA of the company, we have been able to participate in alliances with leading biotech and academic teams. For example, we have recently presented our work in collaboration with Alnylam on extrahepatic delivery of siRNA – fittingly, the first disclosure was made at the OTS meeting in Bordeaux. I have also been fortunate to play a role in Janssen collaboration with Ionis on orally administered antisense therapeutics – recently, enrollment has been started in Phase 1 study for a candidate molecule.
What do you like to do in your free time?
We are a skiing family – we look forward to every winter and are excited by falling snow! In summer, we like to spend free time traveling, biking, or going to the beach – the only problem is that every free second seems to be already scheduled for kids’ swim meets.
Any other fun facts/tidbits you’d like us to know?
Fun fact: before starting my first industry job, I never lived in a city with less than 5 million people. Moving to the suburbs was quite a culture shock at first!