XIAOBIN XU

A little boy sits, surrounded by Legos, his nose deep in his favorite book, 100,000 Whys. As he attempts to unravel the mystery behind the sky's color and the firefly's light, a scientist is born.

"I was 6 when my parents gave me that book. I loved knowing that there was always a reason. The beauty of science, to me, is that we are learning new 'reasons' all the time."

A QUEST FOR LEARNING

Xiaobin's innate love for science is equal parts nature and nurture. Raised in Quanzhou, China, by his engineer father and high school teacher mother, Xiaobin was exposed to academics early. "My parents believed in education. I was taught to think for myself and to question at a very young age."

Xiaobin's aunt further nurtured the budding scientist's interest in the field, and in chemistry in particular. "I excelled in chemistry in high school and at university, but my aunt is really the person who led me to a career in science," Xiaobin recalls.

A chemistry professor at Old Dominion University in Virginia, Professor Nancy Xu now leads a team of researchers focused on the development of cutting-edge bio- and nano-technologies and ultrasensitive analytical methodologies to address fundamental and practical questions in chemical, biochemical and biomedical sciences.

Xiaobin describes his aunt with great pride and respect, recalling their frequent phone calls when he was younger — technology connecting them across the ocean. "She always encouraged me," Xiaobin describes.

"I SAW HOW DEDICATED SHE WAS TO HER RESEARCH AND THAT DEEPLY MOTIVATED ME. SHE ENCOURAGED ME TO APPLY TO A PHD PROGRAM IN THE U.S., TO OPEN MY EYES TO A BROADER WORLD, TO EXPLORE."

HONING A FOCUS ON SPECTROMETRY

Xiaobin pursued his PhD in chemistry at Boston University (BU) under the mentorship of Professor Catherine E. Costello.

"Dr. Costello is one of the most distinguished and respected members in the field of mass spectrometry, but more than that, she is an incredible mentor and teacher. She gives high-level guidance and answers questions, but she really encourages you to have the courage to explore independently."

Xiaobin also credits Dr. Costello with guiding him to his expertise area, mass spectrometry — a sensitive technique used to detect, identify and quantify molecules based on their mass and charge ratio. With broad application across a range of fields, including the environment, geology and pharmaceuticals, mass spectrometry can be used to test water quality, measure petroleum composition or determine a protein's structure, function and interactions.

"MASS SPECTROMETRY CAN HELP US BETTER UNDERSTAND THE MOLECULAR MECHANISM OF A DISEASE. WITH THIS KNOWLEDGE, WE CAN THEN BETTER IDENTIFY DRUG TARGETS WITH THE POWER TO TRULY HELP PATIENTS."

DIVING IN

When Xiaobin joined Regeneron's Analytical Chemistry team in 2013, he was seeking a challenge. He got one.

Xiaobin's first project was helping to develop the Investigational New Drug (IND) application for REGN2810, a fully human antibody directed to the PD-1 receptor. REGN2810 is being investigated in solid tumors either as monotherapy or in combination with various other treatments to strengthen an effective immune response to tumor antigens. The compound is being developed as part of Regeneron's immuno-oncology collaboration with Sanofi.

"I had no experience leading a drug development program, and we were collaborating with another company, adding to the complexity of the task," Xiaobin recalls, "but my senior leaders, Haibo and Ning, supported me, and we were able to successfully submit the IND in a record seven months."

"IT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF MY CAREER SO FAR — COMING IN NEW TO AN ORGANIZATION, DOING SOMETHING I'D NEVER DONE BEFORE. BUT IT IS ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS I JOINED REGENERON: TO BE CHALLENGED EVERY DAY."


A FIERCE APPROACH

Xiaobin has an infectious positive attitude, thriving instead of wilting in the face of adversity. An innate quest for learning propels him.

"You will always experience barriers; if you fail, it's not necessarily because you didn't try hard enough. Every situation is an opportunity for new knowledge and skills."

Xiaobin is challenged daily as he applies mass spectrometry across several research areas: performing analytical characterization of Regeneron's therapeutic proteins to support pre-clinical and clinical product development; new analytical developments to better characterize Regeneron's monoclonal antibodies; and various research to support protein quantification in the tissue or serum samples.

He continues this pursuit of exploration outside of the office, for instance, with his quest to visit all 59 national parks in the United States. So far he has been to 22 and cites Yellowstone as his favorite. "It is incredible that one area has such a diverse environment. It is remarkably beautiful."

FROM SCIENCE TO MEDICINE

"DRUG DISCOVERY IS A COMPLEX, LONG JOURNEY,” ADMITS XIAOBIN. "IT'S NOT EASY, BUT I'M HONORED TO WORK WITH SO MANY TALENTED AND PASSIONATE SCIENTISTS WHO TRULY VALUE WORKING TOGETHER."

He continues, "We wouldn't be successful without collaboration. Each functional area has their expertise, but together we build the complete package. That's what drives us. Each of us contributes our piece to something greater." While his focus has shifted from mulling over the color of the sky to saving human lives, Xiaobin's quest for understanding continues.

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