Stephen H. Friend MD PhD (born December 10, 1953) is an American physician, scientist, entrepreneur and innovator. He is an authority in the field of cancer biology and a pioneer in the field of the genetics of gene expression, integrating system biology approaches to complex diseases. He is the president, co-founder and director of Sage Bionetworks, a Seattle-based non-profit organization founded in 2009, that provides the tools and environment to conduct dynamic, large-scale biomedical research transparently and collaboratively.
Friend believes that successful biomedical research requires the active participation from all stakeholders. He is reimagining the role of citizens in the research process as equal partners with researchers and is building tools to empower them to contribute both their data and expertise as they see fit. He wants to break down the cultural barriers that hamper progress in research and is a strong advocate for open science. Dr. Friend is actively engaging the community to crowd-source solutions to complex biomedical questions through targeted open DREAM analysis challenges. In March 2014 Dr. Friend and Dr. Eric Schadt announced the launch of the Resilience Project, a new crowdsourced effort to understand how people with high risk of developing serious genetic diseases have stayed healthy, and possibly discover the “genetic decoder ring” that protect and prevent diseases.
Previously Senior Vice-President and Franchise Head for Oncology Research at Merck & Co. Dr. Friend led Merck’s Basic Cancer Research efforts. Prior to that Dr. Friend co-founded Rosetta Inpharmatics with Leland H. Hartwell and Leroy Hood in 1996 Much of his research has focused on cancer.
Friend received his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy, his Ph.D. in Chemistry and his M.D. from Indiana University. He did his Pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and his Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He trained with Robert Weinberg at Whitehead Institute where he co-led the team that cloned the first tumor Suppressor gene in 1986.
Stephen Friend was on the faculty at Harvard Medical School from 1987 to 1995, the Massachusetts General Hospital from 1990 to 1995, and the University of Washington before joining the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as a Full Member and Chair of Pharmacology in 1995. Along with Dr. Leland H. Hartwell, Friend founded and co-led the ‘Seattle Project’, an advanced institute for drug discovery at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The Seattle Project’s purpose was to link genetics and drug discovery. While there, Drs Friend and Hartwell developed a method for examining large patterns of genes and showed that these expression patterns could provide detailed functional snapshots linking yeast and man. Their work would allow researchers to intuit cellular activity directly from data as opposed to using hypothesis-driven, narrative approaches to Biology. By 1997 the Seattle Project evolved into Rosetta Inpharmatics, a for-profit company with the same mission, co-founded with Dr. Leroy Hood. Rosetta developed cutting edge tools to generate and analyze high-dimensional functional genomics data, matching genetic variation and function to drug response. Under Dr. Friend’s leadership Rosetta became one of the first, and most successful, bioinformatics startups and was acquired by Merck in 2001. Merck integrated the Rosetta approach across the global pharmaceutical enterprise with Dr. Friend as Senior Vice President and Franchise Head for Oncology Research, leading Merck’s Basic Cancer Research efforts in the Oncology Early Discovery and Development Divisions.
Since cloning the first tumor suppressor gene, Dr. Friend identified p53 as the cause of Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, co-led the teams that developed the expression profiles that underlie the OncotypeDx and Mammaprint assays for breast cancer and led the team that developed the first HDAC inhibitor Zolinza.
In 2009 thanks to Merck’s generosity with software, data, hardware and staff, Dr. Friend and Dr. Eric Schadt co-founded Sage Bionetworks. Friend wants to create a global integrative bionetwork community where researchers are rewarded for collaborating and sharing their data, knowledge and insights. Dr. Friend is actively engaging the community to crowd-source solutions to complex biomedical questions through targeted open DREAM analysis challenges.
Dr. Friend's major research interests are: 1. Open Access Platforms for Building Disease Models 2. Bionetwork Models of Disease 3. Clinical Applications of Checkpoint Controls 4. Tumor Suppressor Genes 5. Molecular Pharmacology 6. Array Technology
7. Genomic Approaches to Drug Discovery
Friend is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been a senior advisor to the National Cancer Institute, ARC and several biotechnology companies, and a Trustee of the American Association for Cancer Research. He received multiple awards among which the Markey Cancer Foundation Research Award, Ernst & Young health Care Award and was named an Ashoka Fellow by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. In 2013 he was honored as a White House Champions of Change Recipient for Open Science.
About Sage Bionetworks
Sage Bionetworks’s mission is to encourage sharing of data and insights as a mechanism of accelerating research while engaging citizens and patients more directly as partners in the area of biomedical research. Under Dr. Friend’s leadership, Sage Bionetworks has developed an open-source technology platform, called Synapse, for data-intensive analysis, sharing and reuse, enabling researchers to perform cutting edge computational biology and research. Synapse enables researchers to seamlessly and transparently conduct, track and share their ongoing work – building up living research projects in real-time.
Stephen Friend has published more than 130 peer-reviewed papers. A few of these publications include:
- The Nature paper describing the isolation of the first tumor suppressor gene
- Deciphering the functions of p53 in osteosarcoma and other cancers
- Using gene signatures as predictor of outcome in breast cancer,
- Observing conserved gene expression patterns across species
- Leveraging crowdsourced approach to facility discoveries
- Improving predictive molecular models of breast cancer through competition-based analysis challenge
- The benefits of transparent collaborative research- a real life experience to enable The Cancer Genome Atlas