Mathai Mammen

Senior Vice-President of Research and Clinical Development

Theravance, Inc., San Francisco

B.Sc. (Hons Chemistry), Dalhousie University, 1989
M.D. Harvard Medical School, 1998
Ph.D. (Chemistry), Harvard University, 1998

Career Path
I graduated in 1989 with an honors B.Sc. in Chemistry and the Governor’s General Medal. I was awarded a 1967 NSERC fellowship and went to Harvard to study both medicine (M.D.) and chemistry (Ph.D.). My doctoral thesis under the mentorship of Professor George Whitesides at Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry was entitled “Entropy and Electrostatics in Molecular Associations: Theory and Practice”. The ideas in this thesis enabled me to write a business plan and co-found a biotechnology company called Theravance with another physician Jim Tananbaum. The technology that formed the basis of my company is called “Multivalent Drug Design”. I hired staff and worked on projects that were enabled by my technology, which applies a fundamentally different way to design medicines than is typical at modern-day biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Over the last twelve years we have had tremendous success, with the discovery of nineteen new compounds that were entered into human clinical trials. We are currently awaiting FDA approval of what I believe will be an important medicine in the treatment of serious infections requiring hospitalization, including infections caused by MRSA. We have medicines in trials in the areas of infection, asthma, COPD and gastrointestinal disorders. We have research-phase programs in areas such as pain and cardiovascular disease. My career progressed from bench chemist, to project leader, to group leader, to department head, to head of research. Recently I became responsible for all of Research and Early Clinical Development, and run a team of approximately 100 highly talented scientists and physicians. I enjoy the science that my job entails, as well as the opportunity to work with motivated individuals.

Chemistry in Action
Chemistry is at the core of what I do – a chemist’s skill, knowledge and judgment are critically important to the success of our programs. After graduating I realized how much is not yet known, and how important “good hands”, as well as “good judgment”, turn out to be. A chemist has the ability to create something that has never before existed in the universe, which never ceases to amaze me.

Last Words
There is no question in my mind that chemistry is one of the most versatile majors one can do if one has any interest in any of the sciences. Even if one intends to pursue a career in any of the biological sciences, or medicine, or legal and policy jobs that involve science, I would recommend doing a first degree in chemistry. Dalhousie, in particular, has one of the very strongest undergraduate chemistry programs in North America.