Dr. Anne Fung is the Global Development Lead for the Port Delivery System with Ranibizumab and Lucentis at Genentech. She is also a practicing retina specialist and researcher at Pacific Eye Associates and California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Anne received her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College and her Medical Degree from Cornell University. She completed her residency in ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine and then pursued a Medical Retina Fellowship at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Anne worked in clinical practice for ten years before joining the team at Genentech in 2014. Anne is a Board Certified Ophthalmologist and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. In our interview she shares more about her life and science.
People Behind the Science Podcast Show Notes
Life Outside of Science (2:24)
Anne loves practicing yoga, as well as reading, listening to podcasts, and listening to audiobooks on a variety of topics including business, organizations, and psychology.
The Scientific Side (4:04)
Macular degeneration is a degenerative eye disease that generally affects older adults. While there are some amazing medicines that can help people with macular degeneration, these medicines must be injected into the eye every 4-6 weeks. Anne is working on a tiny implant that serves as a reservoir for medicine so it can be slowly released over 6 months or more. They are currently investigating how long this implant can effectively treat the disease.
A Dose of Motivation (5:42)
“If I am only happy for myself, I have many fewer chances for happiness. If I am happy when good things happen to other people, I have billions more chances to be happy.” -The 14th Dalai Lama
What Got You Hooked on Science? (9:58)
Early in her childhood, Anne’s grandfather would visit every day and spend time with her in the garden. They would look at worms and bugs together, as well as plant seeds and watch them grow. This sparked Anne’s curiosity about the natural world. Anne’s father is also a retina specialist, and he often told wonderful stories around the dinner table about treating patients and helping restore their vision. Through these stories, Anne saw how his talent, kindness, and curious mind were being applied to help others. Once she was able to perform dissections and chemical reactions in elementary school science class, Anee was absolutely hooked on science. In college, she decided to major in Chinese Studies and complete her pre-med requirements as elective classes. However, in her senior year, Anne was unsure of whether she was committed to becoming a physician. She felt removed from her cultural roots and wanted to better understand them, so she he moved to Hong Kong and started working with a newspaper there. It was a great experience, but within the first six months, Anne began to realize that she truly wanted to pursue medicine because she wanted to have the opportunity to apply her knowledge to directly help people.
The Low Points: Failures and Challenges (21:41)
One of the biggest challenges for Anne came in her freshman year of college. Though she loved math, she struggled immensely with the second semester of calculus. She just couldn’t understand the abstract concepts that they were learning in class. Anne wasn’t performing well in class, and she was pretty sure her pre-med career was over. She told her mom the sad news, and her mom encouraged her to stick with it and try taking one more class on the pre-med track. The next class Anne signed up for was organic chemistry. She was excited to find that she loved the class and she really enjoyed being in the lab. From that point on, Anne continued through the pre-med curriculum without any other major hurdles. It was a great learning experience, and she was glad she followed her mother’s advice.
A Shining Success! (23:57)
During medical school, Anne completed a rotation in a hospital where she was asked to collect information on a patient’s history. The summary she received indicated that she would be working with a developmentally delayed man in his 30’s who was experiencing certain symptoms. Anne greeted the man, and he told her as much information as he could. His family was also present, and in a side conversation with his family, Anne discovered that the man had served as a U.S. Marine. This didn’t seem consistent with the developmental delays that were noted in the summary, so she asked for clarification. The family told Anne that the patient had indeed previously served as a Marine and only recently began experiencing the present symptoms of confusion and childlike behavior. Anne brought this information back to the treatment team, and they decided to investigate his hormone levels. The patient’s cortisol levels were extremely high, and he was diagnosed with severe Cushing Syndrome. Anne was inspired by the fact that she was able to make a difference and help a patient by listening and applying her own skills to medicine.
Book Recommendations (3:06)
Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
Most Treasured Travel (26:48)
For many years, one of the scientific meetings that Anne has regularly attended has been held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. One of things about this scientific meetings that makes it particularly unique is that it is intentionally casual. The meeting attendees all wear shorts and tropical t-shirts, and it is a really relaxed atmosphere to discuss interesting science. They hold a huge poster session, and the organizers put people doing research on similar topics near each other. For Anne, being able to meet and talk to some of the people whose papers she had been reading was phenomenal. It has also been fun for Anne to get to know the city and find her favorite hotels and restaurants. There was one restaurant on Las Olas Boulevard where they held the alumni reception for Stanford Ophthalmology researchers and residents that served amazingly delicious home-baked pies.
Quirky Traditions and Funny Memories (30:26)
Anne has come to love the tradition of alumni receptions and gatherings. It’s fun to have an opportunity to meet up with groups of people who you have spent time with at different stages of your career and life. These gatherings are great because you get to meet new people who are working with your colleagues, reminisce about the time you spent together, celebrate the successes of others, and support each other. In her last year of residency, Anne stopped by the alumni reception and was disappointed to see there was no one else there in this big, brightly lit, and austere hotel conference room. After talking to the Chairman, Anne volunteered to identify an interesting local restaurant or night club for future alumni gatherings. It was important to have a fun place for everyone to come together, and once this change was made, the events began to draw 100-200 people.
Advice For Us All (36:28)
Make sure you look way ahead, find your direction, and think about what would be meaningful and exciting for you to achieve. However, don’t hang on too tightly to your vision or be too concrete about the steps you need to take to get there. Once you set your course, be present and enjoy the step you are taking right now. Also, remember that there is so much that we can do for the world and humanity. Indulge your curiosity, keep asking questions, and explore why the world is the way it is. There is so much to do, and we need diverse minds thinking about these questions and getting solutions out to the people around the world.
Anne leads the global development program for a small, surgically implanted device, called the Port Delivery System with ranibizumab (PDS), being investigated in Phase III trials for patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic eye disease. She also continues to care for patients with retinal conditions in San Francisco, CA. She appreciates the opportunity to bring the first-hand perspective of patients and their needs in the private practice setting together with the talented team of scientists, biostatisticians, product engineers and other collaborators to develop new therapeutics and get them to patients safely and quickly. Prior to her role as Global Development Lead, Anne served as the Head of Ophthalmology U.S. Medical Affairs team connecting Genentech’s research science to clinical retina practice so that physicians and payers can better care for patients. Anne joined Genentech in 2014 to help guide the Medical Affairs group in identifying and answering timely clinical questions for Lucentis and lampalizumab. Since 2005, Anne has been active in private practice at Pacific Eye Associates/California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco where she led the clinical research program, serving as primary investigator on two of her own investigator-sponsored research trials in neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD), site primary investigator for several multi-center trials, and director of the CPMC resident research program. Anne’s academic interests include therapeutics and diagnostics for age-related macular degeneration, resident research education, and journal publication standards. Anne is an active member of the Macula Society, Retina Society, Women in Ophthalmology, Women in Retina, The CONNECT Network, the Association for Research in Vision Ophthalmology (ARVO), the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), and the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS).