On April 2, Dr. Lucienne Ronco ’80 returned to campus to talk about science and technology at the Society of Skeptics, encouraging students to consider these exciting fields as they explore career options. She delivered her remarks at 7 p.m. in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration, pointing to her own career trajectory as a researcher and scientist.
“If students love to be lifelong learners, if they love challenge, if they love to work with other folks who like those same things, if they like to be creative and if they want to help people, then they could love this type of job,” said Dr. Ronco, who has served as vice president of translational medicine at Fulcrum Therapeutics since 2016. “The United States needs more scientifically oriented and technically adept people, there are huge demands for people with those skills.”
Prior to joining Fulcrum, Dr. Ronco was director of the Center for the Development of Therapeutics at the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. She also worked for many years at Catabasis Pharmaceuticals and AstraZeneca Boston, where she served as president of research and global director of translational medicine, respectively. Her other roles at AstraZeneca included local director of the departments of in vivo pharmacology, informatics and disease area research and the breast disease team scientific lead. Earlier in her career, Dr. Ronco was a senior research investigator at the Pfizer Discovery Technology Center. She completed her postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School and earned her PhD in biological chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles.
“At Skeptics, I used Fulcrum as an example of an exciting and dynamic workplace, speaking to the technical challenges that we will experience in the next 20-80 years in the U.S. and the world as global warming drives massive changes,” said Dr. Ronco. “We will need people dedicated to solving challenges, to being creative and to having technical skills to step up and bring solutions.”
At Fulcrum, Dr. Ronco works with project teams to help build strategies that support bringing new therapies to be tested in clinical trials. Noting that her role allows her to be creative and influential, Dr. Ronco credits her “awesome team of people with many different areas of expertise” for making her work so fulfilling as they build and deliver a plan for each new drug development project. “I also love that we can bring some relief and hope to patients with rare diseases who currently have no option,” she said.
The types of approaches that Dr. Ronco and her group bring to a clinical trial are essential to understanding if new medicines are effective. “Together with the medical doctors with whom I work, we develop a clinical strategy to prove if we have a useful new medicine,” she said.
Having worked for corporations and in academia, Dr. Ronco has a unique perspective as a scientist and researcher. “At each institution, we acquire new skills and learn from our colleagues and from the demands of our positions,” she concluded. “Our experiences as scientists shape our approach to our next role. I took this job with Fulcrum even before the company had started because I understood that their plans to work in rare disease that are caused by the improper over or under expression of a gene that is driving the pathology is an awesome plan—drug development is very hard! I learned that, by taking on the problem in this way, we could have some chance of success. I had seen what failed and what could succeed, and Fulcrum's plans were very exciting because I thought that we had a great shot at creating a new medicine.”
The History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon.’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.