Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ron Taticek, In Memoriam

ron taticekUPDATE: Memorial Service to celebrate Ron's Life will be held at 3pm on Saturday, May 3rd (2014) at:

Grissom's Funeral Home - map
267 East Lewelling Blvd.
San Lorenzo, CA 94580

I learned today that my mentor and long time advocate, Ron Taticek, passed away. Most recently, Ron was the Director of Technology for Genentech's Vacaville Operations.

As I look back on my career, he's the guy in the last row of the bleachers rooting for me the entire way.

In 1994, Ron was completing his doctorate when I was a freshman at Cornell; our paths didn't cross until 1998 when I arrived in California - jobless and he was a Sr. Group Leader in Cell Culture Fermentation R&D (CCFR&D) at Genentech.

I knew to call Ron because our advisor, Mike Shuler, told me, "If you're headed west, look up this guy, Ron Taticek and he'll help you."

I was skeptical, but just as Shuler said, Ron didn't hesitate to help out a kid he'd never met.... whose only connection was through his Ph.D advisor. I called poor Ron once a week asking about jobs at Genentech. (Back then, I thought the tenacity = employment); I called him so many times that I know his phone number to this day: 650-ABLE-JOY.

He agreed to have an "informal interview" where he had me come to South City and he showed me around and left me with the words, "Companies like Genentech value professional scientific experience. So go and get at least a year's worth of professional scientific experience and then give me a call."

It turns out that in August 1998, I got a job and it was an awesome medical device job; the only thing wrong with it was that it wasn't bioprocess. And so in August 1999...with a year and two hours of professional scientific experience under my belt, I dialed ABLE-JOY.

Ron answered cheerfully (he had a very smooth phone voice) and said, "Great to hear from you, there's a junior engineer position up at our new plant in Vacaville: I'll forward your resume!"

I got that Associate Engineer position in October of 1999 at Vacaville and in 2003, I had the opportunity to work directly with Ron when they were transferring Avastin to Vacaville.  It was because of Ron's career jumpstart that I had the opportunity to work with the cell culture greats like Jess Bergevin, Dan Stark, Bob Kiss and Cartikeya Reddy (just to name a few).

What a lot of people don't know is that Ron Taticek was the lead cell culture engineer in developing the Avastin (version 1.0) cell culture process. The reason - in part - why literally tons of bevacizumab have made it to market is because of Ron's work developing the cell culture process.

In October 2004 when Ron became the Associate Director of Ferm(entation) MSAT, he asked me to join him in South City. I accepted and reported through him until I left Genentech in 2007, creating awesome tools, doing awesome support, and working with universally awesome people.

Since 2007, I'd check in with Ron a few times a year; we even sat down to have salads (apparently, our respective wives had put us on diets).  It was then that I realized I've known him for 15-years. And it was then that I realized how "there" he was for me since I was some fresh-out-of-school kid.

Jan 2013 was last time I would see Ron in person... and I'm glad I got the chance to tell him how much I appreciated him. We parted ways like usual: promising to keep in touch as he ambled off to another meeting.

If there was anything left for me to say to you, Ron, it would be:
Your life's work mattered to millions of people. Your mentorship and advocacy profoundly impacted my life.  And your true legacy: N & N will miss you dearly. Though you left us too soon... and it's not fair... you rocked this life by making a difference.

Rest in peace.