Bulletin, Institute

Life Science Innovations Explained

California is synonymous with biotechnology and with the ever present terminology and technology being batted around; it can make your head spin! Enter BioTech Primer’s Life Science Innovations Explained—a free, searchable e-book written for non-scientists who want to be a part of the biotech conversation—no PhD needed.   We examine the latest FDA approved products and newest discoveries and break them down in just one page. Regular features such as “Easily Confused”, “Cocktail Fodder”, and “Business of Biotech” keep you up-to-date with the companies and their competitors vying for the next blockbuster in an industry moving at break-neck speed.

Life Science Innovations Explained is a collection of our free e-mail newsletter—BioTech Primer WEEKLY. It’s delivered every Thursday to your e-mail inbox—click here to download the e-book and to start receiving the WEEKLY.

What you can learn from WEEKLY. This WEEKLY excerpt explains two breast cancer therapies developed by the California company that started it all—Genentech.
targeting breast cancer

HER2-positive (HER2+) breast cancer patients—about 20% of all breast cancer cases—have the most highly effective therapies available on the market. HER2+ cancer cells produce, and therefore present, larger than normal numbers of the HER2 receptors on their cell surface. These HER2 receptors capture growth factors, which trigger the cell to grow and reproduce more rapidly than normal. Mutations are more likely with rapid reproduction and thus, a tumor is born.

Overexpression of the HER2 receptor is the result of having extra copies of the HER2 gene, known in the world of genomics as gene amplification. Gene amplification events are thought to be caused by mutations that occur after a person is born—it is not an inherited form of cancer.

Genentech’s (South San Francisco, CA) Herceptin is a monoclonal antibody that binds to and blocks the activity of the HER2 receptor on cancer cells. When the HER2 receptor is blocked, the HER2 growth factor can no longer bind and send a growth signal to the cell, so the cancer cells stop dividing. The presence of an antibody on the surface of HER2+ breast cancer cells also signals the patient’s immune system to attack that cell.

Kadcyla, also made by Genentech, is an antibody-drug conjugate—a monoclonal antibody that delivers a highly toxic drug directly to HER2+ breast cancer cells. Kadcyla binds the HER2 receptor like Herceptin, but also delivers a toxic payload (which is actually attached to the monoclonal antibody). As a normal part of the cell’s lifecycle, cell-surface receptors get internalized or “taken up” by the cell on a regular basis. When Kadcyla is attached to a receptor that gets internalized, the toxic payload is released from the antibody and kills the cancer cell internally.

More is more. California Life Science Institute partners with BioTech Primer to offer 1 and 2-day courses on the basics of biotechnology, drug development, molecular diagnostics and medical devices. Go to or to view upcoming classes. Can’t make a class in person? Online life science classes will be available beginning January 2016.

If you have questions about BioTech Primer offerings, including their customized in-company classes contact Stacey Franklin at