Science is Our Passion: Virtual Reality Brings Immunotherapy to Life

Several scientists from the Sanofi North America R&D Hub were recently featured in the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) GoBoldly national campaign. Senior Scientist Timothy Wagenaar describes his experience helping to create PhRMA’s virtual reality genomics laboratory and discusses his exciting work in immuno-oncology.

Timothy Wagenaar

As a researcher, it might not surprise you that I’ve always had a passion for science. As a child, I had an inquisitive mind and a desire to help people – just like my mom who was a nurse. My journey with research started during my undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa, when I joined a laboratory to study the varicella virus. It was my first exposure to scientific research in a lab, and I was hooked! As a graduate student I studied poxviruses and during my postdoctoral fellowship I transition into cancer research studying melanoma (a type of skin cancer). In 2012, a friend told me about Sanofi’s postdoctoral program. I was accepted and the rest is history!

Today, I work in immuno-oncology, which is where we investigate new platforms and novel therapies to treat cancer. It’s really a fascinating and rapidly evolving area of cancer research that uses the body’s immune system to seek out and destroy tumor cells. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of patients benefitting from immunotherapy. It’s exciting to know that my research can make a difference for patients. We’re seeing that the immune system is capable of so much. It’s remarkable!

When I was asked to participate in a virtual reality experience for PhRMA’s GoBoldly campaign, I knew it was an exciting chance for me to share my passion for pharmaceutical research and educate more people on immunotherapy. This virtual reality experience gives everyone an insider’s look at a genomics laboratory in a really interesting way (and you don’t have to have a graduate degree to understand it). To view the 3D experience, click here.

People don’t often understand the work that we do as scientists and researchers. It’s hard for them to recognize the long term goals of our work or how much time and effort goes into developing new medicines for complex diseases. Part of my motivation with the GoBoldly experience is to help the public understand the work that we do as scientist and the complex processes behind it.

Creating a therapy doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time to build on years of expertise and other discoveries made in the lab. I’m proud to represent the hard work Sanofi’s scientists do every day to help patients in need and look forward to what the future holds for immunotherapy.