Stanley J. Wertheimer, Ph.D. ’87
His Inquiring Mind led Him to Translational Medicine
Stanley J. Wertheimer, Ph.D. ’87
Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences
Stanley J. Wertheimer, Ph.D. ’87, has had an interest in science since childhood. After exploring several different pathways, his role as a clinical strategist at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals suits him well as he seeks to bring drugs from bench to bedside.
Anyone who watched science fiction or horror movies as a child may remember the thrill of being scared, of being glued to the television screen until the aliens appeared, or of peeking out intermittently from under the covers to see if they were gone. Stanley J. Wertheimer, Ph.D. ’87, loved these movies, but he didn’t cower under the covers. He got curious.
Mystery has always intrigued Wertheimer. Tales from outer space (“I’m a huge Star Trek fan”) and mythology or folk stories with other-worldly creatures (“I read every Frank Baum book about Oz that there was”) fed his fascination with the unknown and, particularly, with science. “It created an inquisitive mind,” he says.
Wertheimer is an explorer. He loves roaming uncharted territory and science is the ultimate exploration. But he doesn’t probe idly. He needs to connect the dots, to unscramble puzzles. “I always want to know why I am doing something.”
He began his scientific training majoring in biology at Rutgers University. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he entered New York Medical College’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology and completed a master’s focusing on mutagenesis and enzymology. “Originally, I thought I’d just be a guy working in a lab,” he recalls. “But the research bug bit me.” The research scientist wanted to do more than examine samples on slides. He wanted to find solutions in scientific mystery. “I’m an issue-oriented fellow,” he says. “I didn’t just want to be the guy working on the bench. I wanted to bring in ideas.”
Under the tutelage of Ira Schwartz, Ph.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Wertheimer earned a doctorate from the College with a focus on molecular biology and the regulation of gene expression. Uncertain about a career in academia, he completed a three year fellowship at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and one at Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals. Through drug research and development, he found his purpose in scientific exploration. “I’m an experimentalist,” he says. “I looked forward to solving problems. It’s one of the great thrills of being a lab scientist.”
For the next nineteen years, Wertheimer worked for Hoffmann-La Roche Pharmaceuticals, investigating drugs to treat arthritis, broncho-pulmonary diseases, kidney disease, and diabetes. When his job became a casualty of corporate reorganization and cutbacks, he joined Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Tarrytown, N.Y., where he is an associate director of translational medicine.
Instead of researching and developing drugs in response to disease, he now works as a clinical strategist, bringing promising drugs “from bench to bedside” by identifying diseases that might benefit from molecules that he and his colleagues identify. “Other companies would have a biologic target and go after it,” he says. “We see a particular molecule, develop an antibody, review the target biology, and ask, ‘What disease or population can we direct this to?’”
As Wertheimer explains, translational medicine fills the gap between basic research and early clinical studies. Indeed, he follows compounds from discovery all the way to clinical trials. “One of the biggest rewards for me would be if something I worked on became a medicine.” Until then, he remains committed to finding answers in the scientific unknown. “There’s a lot of mystery for us to unwind.”