Meet Marina, Senior Group Leader in Cancer Immunotherapy

Hi, my name is…

…Marina. I joined Roche in 2010 as Head of the Cell Biology Group and I am leading one of the Cancer Immunotherapy departments. I am originally from Pula (Croatia), but I left my country more than twenty years ago to study in Trieste (Italy) where I obtained my PhD in oncology in 2003. I moved further North to the University of Leiden (The Netherlands) and then to the University Hospital in Lausanne (Switzerland) for my post-doctoral fellowship. My husband is Italian and when we are not working we like to enjoy our time between Switzerland, Italy, Croatia and the rest of the world! Our little daughter was born last year and has brought immense happiness into our lives.

My typical day at work is…

I lead a group of very talented team leaders, scientists and research associates dedicated to the characterization of the activity of cancer immunotherapy agents. In addition, I am the discovery leader for several programs in pre-clinical and clinical stages. I am passionate about my work and am also actively involved in establishing the tumor immunology network between Roche and several academic institutions, pioneering the efforts to establish innovative models for the testing of cancer immunotherapy agents. I actively contribute to building and overseeing Roche’s cancer immunotherapy portfolio. In addition, my department offers me the opportunity to train interns, Master’s degree students and PhD candidates.

The location I am working at is…

I work at the Roche Innovation Center Zurich (RICZ), which is based in Schlieren nearby Zurich. I enjoy very much my time at Roche/RICZ, the environment is friendly and informal, exceptionally interesting and stimulating. There are new ideas, concepts and proposals being discussed on a daily basis and there are continuous opportunities for learning and development, including the implementation of the individual’s own ideas.  

My work helps Roche to …

Some of the projects I lead entered the clinics recently and are now being investigated in cancer patients for whom no other treatment options exist. The transition from the pre-clinical phase to the clinical experimentation was an amazing experience that brought drive, energy and enthusiasm I never experienced before. Even today, learning about every patient who responds to the treatment is extremely rewarding and compensates for the hard work of many people and the long journey it takes them to reach the clinics. Likewise, every patient who does not respond to therapy prompts us to look ahead and understand the reasons for it in order to be able to provide novel therapeutic options in the future.

Roche as an employer is…

… excellent. Whereas the opportunities for scientific improvement and learning are part of every day’s business, the development opportunities including many professional and soft skill courses accessible to employees are almost unlimited.

In the Cancer Immunotherapy Discovery team we are looking for…

we currently also offer other opportunities for experienced researchers within our Oncology Discovery team.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

When I look back, it’s nice to see how much we grew over the last six years; when I joined Roche in 2010, I led a group of four scientists, we expanded continuously and I now lead a team of 14 very talented and motivated researchers!
I am also happy and proud about the projects which reached the clinics and are now changing the life of patients who would otherwise not have any other treatment options. This achievement represents a long investigation time and important efforts of many dedicated and engaged colleagues.

What's the best advice you ever received in your career, and whom did you get it from?

“…Persevera con tenacia e pazienza la fiducia in te e nelle tue capacità…”, which means: “…Persevere with tenacity and patience the belief in yourself and in your capabilities…”. My aunt gave me this advice during the celebration of my Master’s degree in Trieste, many years ago… This sentence kept me going in many moments.

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