Using biotechnology to treat hay fever
Dr. Tracy Matray is working to help people breathe easier. As an associate director of chemistry at Dynavax Technologies, he’s developing treatments for hay fever and other allergies. It’s one project at the international biotechnology company, which also is researching remedies for Hepatitis B, lymphoma, and asthma.
His work uses short strands of DNA made in the lab to reprogram the human immune system, so that exposure to pollen no longer causes an individual to start sniffling and sneezing.
“It’s exciting stuff, new stuff,” Matray says.
His route to a senior position in biotechnology started at Santa Clara University as a chemistry major. “I had outstanding teachers that inspired me,” he says. “They gave me the flexibility, because it’s not just about the classes you take.”
After graduating from SCU in 1991, Matray went to Colorado State University, earning his Ph.D. in organic chemistry. His postdoctoral work was done at the University of Rochester on the importance of hydrogen bonding during DNA replication.
As an undergraduate, Matray interned at IBM, and continued in a part-time position at the company during his senior year. The workload ended up becoming a problem for him.
“I basically became overwhelmed,” he says. “My work obligation was almost 20 hours a week. I went to the chair of the chemistry department, and he was able to customize my situation, to enable me to back off a little bit to get all the bases covered. I was still able to get the experience in industry that would be valuable down the line.”
At a larger school, Matray might have gotten waylaid by his own ambitious efforts. But at Santa Clara, he found help—and encouragement to continue on with his goal to earn a doctorate.
Matray says this personal attention and customized problem-solving reflects the general approach at Santa Clara. “Professors look at each individual,” he says. “That paved the career path for me.”
Currently Associate Director of Chemistry, Dynavax Technologies Corp.