Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends
A Biotech Entrepreneur With a Passion for Discovery: Rachel Meyers ’84
This Women’s History Month, the Brandeis Alumni Association invited perspectives from several alumnae who are inspiring the next generation of scientists.
Rachel Meyers serves as chief scientific officer at Faze Medicines in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Most recently, she was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Third Rock Ventures, where she helped drive the creation of Faze Medicines. With more than 20 years of drug-discovery- and development expertise, she is an expert in the development of RNAi therapeutics.
Previously, she was a biotech consultant in the Greater Boston area, served as senior vice president for research at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, and was a senior scientist at Millennium Pharmaceuticals. She serves on several scientific advisory boards, consults on nucleic-acid therapeutic development, is listed as an inventor on many patents and patent applications, and has numerous peer-reviewed publications. Meyers received her PhD from MIT and completed her postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School.
She was invited by the Brandeis Alumni Association to reflect on her career in STEM and on the part her Brandeis experience played in shaping her professional path.
I have recently helped to launch a new biotechnology company called Faze Medicines. At Faze, we are exploring the relatively new field of biomolecular condensates to understand how these condensates control biological processes and regulate disease states. Our ultimate goal is to develop therapies to treat very serious diseases through manipulation of these condensates.
Through my work, I have the opportunity to think about complex and interesting problems and collaborate with gifted and motivated colleagues to make a difference for patients living with devastating diseases. It's hard to imagine something better than that.
I have always had a passion for STEM subjects. In my early schooling that passion was squarely focused on math. As early as second grade in my local public elementary school, I was exposed to math games which I loved. I owe a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Sperber, our second-grade math specialist, for introducing math baseball, the best part of my week. I carried that interest through high school, joining the school math team, and into my first year at Brandeis.
At Brandeis I was exposed to a richer palate of STEM and shifted my focus from math to chemistry. While I did not do any independent research during my time at Brandeis, through the work-study program, I had lab jobs for the entire three-and-a-half years I was there. My association with labs across chemistry and biology during this time was a heavy influence on my future path. I got exposed to upperclassmen and graduate students doing independent research and I very much admired their grit and intellect, even if I did not really understand their projects.
I shifted my study from chemistry to biochemistry in my last year at Brandeis and got to meet two amazing scientists, Bob Abeles and William Jencks. These professors team-taught a biochemistry class and unlocked the secrets of enzymology and classic biochemical pathways in a manner that I found so enticing. I finished my time at Brandeis after the fall semester of my senior year and I was committed to get a job in science, to better understand how to apply the things I had learned to the real world.
I was fortunate to get an opportunity at a very young biotechnology company, at a time when biotechnology was just getting started across the country. My knowledge of chemistry landed me a job in a lab at Genetics Institute and over the next four years, I came to love the intersection of science, business and patients. I also came to appreciate that I really wanted to work as a biologist and therefore needed to go to graduate school to learn biology and how to become an independent scientist.
To any young woman at Brandeis thinking about STEM, I say to you: Go for it. There are few things more rewarding than spending your time with smart and passionate people teasing apart challenging questions. Reach for what interests you and have confidence in your ability to be successful. Expect to be judged for what you have done as well as for the promise of what you will do in the future. The sky's the limit.