Dr. Wendy Young (BA’88, MS’89) Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient

Friends of Chemistry Logo

We are proud to recognize Dr. Wendy Young (BA’88, MS’89) as the 2020 WFU Friends of Chemistry Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.  Dr. Young has built an amazing career in the pharmaceutical industry.  She is presently the Senior vice President for Small Molecule Drug Discovery at Genentech in South San Francisco, CA.  We are so very proud that she is associated with Wake Forest Chemistry.

Dr. Young received a B.A./M.S. in chemistry from Wake Forest University in 1989. She was one of the first students to participate in the 5-year B.A./M.S. chemistry program.  

She pursued her PhD at Princeton in the lab of distinguished chemist Edward Taylor.  There she began to make important contributions in the field of medicinal chemistry.  Her dissertation project involved the design and synthesis of folate analogues for use as antitumor agents, and she was part of a team collaborating with Eli Lilly, that designed, synthesized, and characterized a folate-based anti-tumor agent marketed as Alimta® (pemetrexed). 

Later, as a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Dr. Samuel Danishefsky at Memorial Sloan Cancer Center, Dr. Young was a member of the team that designed and completed the total synthesis of the anti-cancer agent Taxol®.

In 1995 Dr. Young accepted a position as a medicinal chemist at Celera, and by 2004 had risen to level of Senior Director.  There she worked on a number of projects; two of which are presently in Phase II clinical trials.

In 2006 she moved to Genentech as an Associate Director of Medicinal Chemistry.  Her career at Genentech has been stellar, as she rose quickly through the ranks to become Senior Vice President, Small Molecule Drug Discovery in January 2018.  She currently leads a department of 400 scientists engaged in infectious disease, oncology, cancer, immunotherapy, neuroscience, and immunology drug discovery and development.

Dr. Young has had a distinguished and productive medicinal chemistry career and is internationally recognized in the field of drug discovery. Under her leadership she has produced one marketed drug, and 20 clinical candidates of which eight are still in clinical development and poised to potentially launch in the next five years. She has over 70 issued patents and/or related research articles in top journals.

She has won many awards throughout her career; a few of which include:

  • ACS National “Earle B Barnes Award in Chemical Management” in 2020
  • A “Top Twenty extraordinary women in biopharma” – Endpoints News, 2019
  • “2018 Inventor’s Award” at Genentech
  • “Forever Influential Honor Roll” by the San Francisco Business Times in 2016
  • “2016 Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award” by the Boy Scouts of America, Pacific Skyline Council
  • A “Most Influential Women of 2015” by the San Francisco Business Times

In addition to her leadership in research,  Dr. Young has also shown exemplary service to the profession of chemistry through her dedication and innovation in the ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry, the ACS’s second largest division. Through the past 6 years she served as the Vice Chair of the Division, the Program Chair, a member of the Long-Range Planning Committee, and in 2017 she served as the division Chair. Most recently, Dr. Young became an associate editor of Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

As a senior medicinal woman scientist in the biopharmaceutical industry, Dr. Young has also taken the initiative to promote and support women medicinal chemists. She set a goal of having 30% of all speakers at the Med Chem-sponsored symposia at ACS National Meetings be women. This goal has been achieved for many years in a row.  She has also been a long-time leader in the “Genentech Women in Science and Engineering”, and is frequently invited to universities to speak on women’s issues to their female STEM community.

Dr. Young has been a major proponent of the ACS Scholars Program in the Bay Area. This 25-year-old program provides scholarships to promising college students from under-represented communities. In 2016, she organized an ACS Scholars’ program at Genentech where she has ensured that every ACS Scholar they sponsor has a mentor at Genentech. She has also been able to build support for the program with other Bay Area biotech and biopharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Young exemplifies the qualities we seek in people worthy of the Wake Forest University Department of Chemistry Distinguished Alumni Award. We are understandably very proud of Dr. Young’s achievements and accomplishments—in the profession and in service to the larger community—which reflect so well on her education here in the Chemistry Department at Wake Forest University.