An Interview with Tao Guo, VP of Medicinal Chemistry

Dr. Tao Guo Interview Banner


Dr. Tao Guo serves as Vice President of Medicinal Chemistry, International Discovery Service Unit (IDSU). Dr. Guo joined WuXi AppTec in December 2008, bringing with him a wealth of experience in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery. He is an inventor of 10 preclinical candidate compounds with 2 advanced to Phase III and 1 advanced to Phase II. He is the recipient of 37 issued U.S. patents and the author of over 50 peer-reviewed papers. He has served on the NIH Expert Review Panels, the Princeton ACS Fall Organic Chemistry Symposium Organizing Committee, the Editorial Board of ChemTracts – Organic Chemistry, and as the President and CEO of the CGP-Doering Foundation. In 2011, Dr. Guo received the Shanghai inaugural “Thousands Plan” award. We sat down with Dr. Guo to learn more about his background in medicinal chemistry and his insights on IDSU.

Dr. Guo, you are an experienced medicinal chemist, a veteran in the field. Can you tell us more about your background before joining WuXi?

Tao: I have known Dr. Ge Li for many years from our time together at Columbia University and Pharmacopeia. I greatly admire his courage and vision in founding WuXi. At Pharmacopeia, I worked with WuXi’s FTE teams for a number of programs that I led and was extremely impressed by the high quality work and the impact that WuXi had on my projects. I ultimately decided to join WuXi in 2008 because I was inspired by Dr. Li’s vision in transforming drug discovery through an open access platform. I am excited to be here and to contribute to WuXi’s growth.

After years of working in biotech in the U.S., you are now working with our IDSU teams in China. How is working in China different from working in the U.S.?

Tao: The teams in China are young and energetic. The average age of WuXi employees in China is 29. We offer numerous training programs at WuXi for young scientists. For young chemists, we have a range of chemistry and management training including synthetic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, and program management. Coming to work every day, I feel the strong enthusiasm and energy from our young scientists. I am very proud to see the rapid growth of our young employees and their impactful contributions to our partners’ programs.

What sort of results and impact have you seen with our IDSU teams in China?

Tao: IDSU teams in China have demonstrated strong capabilities in synthetic and medicinal chemistry. Over the last year, the teams have delivered over 70,000 compounds for over 100 clients from pharma, biotech, and non-profit organizations. The teams have discovered over 25 preclinical candidate compounds, including compounds that have received breakthrough therapy designations from FDA, serving as examples of our vision, “invented in China, for the world”. The teams’ efforts have made positive contributions to the successful IPO/partnering of 5 biotech companies.

IDSU has achieved a lot in the past decade. What do you see as future directions for IDSU?

Tao: We are building IDSU to be the best solutions provider in synthetic and medicinal chemistry to clients around the globe. As IDSU has become the largest capability and technology platform for discovery chemistry service in pharmaceutical and biotech industry, the insights gained from our many years of deep experience help us develop a range of tailored solutions to best meet the different needs of our diverse customers. We also continue to strengthen our technology capabilities to keep our leadership position in discovery chemistry.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. To finish, would you like to share an inspiring experience or event in the field that has impacted you?

Tao: The Nobel Prize Committee awarding William C. Campbell, Satoshi Omura, and Youyou Tu with the 2015 Nobel Prizes in Physiology and Medicine for their discovery of ivermectin and (+)-artminsinin was very inspirational to me this year. Ivermectin and Artminsin are used to cure diseases caused by parasitic roundworms and malaria, respectively. William C. Campbell was a chemist at Merck when he made his discovery of ivermectin; his recognition was encouraging to all in the drug discovery industry. Youyou Tu’s recognition was especially impactful for all Chinese scientists and chemists here in WuXi, as she was the first Chinese scientist to earn the Nobel Prize.