Summer 2015
AN UNLIKELY SCIENTIST

AN UNLIKELY SCIENTIST

Greg Frost ’89 Makes Waves In Biotechnology

by Bailey Larson

IN 1989, Greg Frost’s classmates  predicted that he would become a  Rasta god in Africa. For himself, Greg  envisioned a career in music. By faculty  members, he is remembered for his  legendary performance of “Imagine,”  dressed as John Lennon, at JPD. 

But there is another thing for which  Frost is remembered at Prep. And this  one might actually be an indicator of  the biotechnology executive he would  one day become. 

“Oh, his high school science fair  project,” biology teacher Rob McLinn  says with a smile. “He and Chris Buerner  ’89 created a still and made alcohol.” 

In his defense, Frost says, “We used  hypothesis-driven scientific methods.” 

While it wasn’t until his junior year  at UC Santa Cruz that Frost truly discovered  his passion for science and its  applications in medicine, his experience  at Prep set the foundation for his career  in biotechnology. 

“I couldn’t have told anyone when I  was a student at Prep exactly what I was  going to do when I grew up, but I did  receive a very well-rounded education,”  he says. “You’re really not defining who  you’re going to be so early on, but  you’re getting a broad set of tools to  enable you to think about what you will  become.” 

Frost’s journey from being primarily  interested in motorcycles and music to  being a biotechnology executive was  gradual. At Prep, he had an intellectual  curiosity for science, but it started to  blossom as he studied biochemistry and  molecular biology at UC Santa Cruz and  amplified from there. 

“My true interest in science evolved  after I came to understand that science is not just learning what other people  have already learned, but learning the  things that are still unknown,” he says. 

"My true interest in science evolved after I came to unders tand that science is not jus t learning what other people ha ve already learned, but learning the things that are still unknown.” — Greg Frost ’89

After graduating from Santa Cruz,  Frost earned his PhD at UC San  Francisco, which led to what he calls  “the longest postdoc in history.” At  UCSF, he started purifying, cloning and  engineering new enzymes from the  human genome that led him to found  Halozyme Therapeutics after a brief stint  at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.  The company went public in 2004 and  in 2005 earned its first drug approval  for one of these enzymes, which allows  medicines that would ordinarily need to  be administered intravenously (injected  directly to the bloodstream) to be given  subcutaneously (injected into the fat  layer between the skin and muscle). This  has opened the door for the development  of a whole host of drugs that can  take advantage of this new platform,  as well as a novel form of the enzyme  under clinical investigation for pancreas  cancer. 

Though Frost still serves on the  scientific advisory board at Halozyme,  he’s now leading the health sector  at Intrexon, another biotechnology  company that recently went public. 

“Rather than trying to clone one  gene or make one enzyme for therapeutic  use, we are engineering biology to  build an entirely new pathway,” he says.  “So not just one gene but an entire  circuit.” 

Practically, this science plays out  in a number of ways that could lead to  major medical advancements. 

“It’s certainly more complex than  biotech 1.0, but the advantage is the clinical utility in very new areas,” he  says. “It could lead to medicines for  things we can’t treat today.” 

And it all comes back to the clinical  utility. Frost was drawn to health and  medicine because of the impact it has  on the lives of people around the world. 

“I love science, but I was never  one who loved science just so I could  publish in a journal,” he says. 

Sure, the field is tough and full  of hurdles. Some projects he works on  may not come to realization for years—  decades, even. 

“It’s a lot of work, it’s very risky,  and you really have to love it to do  it,” he says. “But when you really love  doing these sorts of things, you realize  you would do it even if you had to pay  someone to do it.” 

And though he no longer dreams  of a record deal, Frost still makes time  for music. Instead of playing at The  Whiskey with his bandmates, he’s more  often playing solo for his favorite audience, his 7-year-old twins and his  wife, Valerie. 

“I tell people that I learn something  every day about human beings from my  own personal science experiment,” he  says of his boy-girl twins. 

The family spends the school year  in Palm Beach and the summers often  in San Diego, but Frost promises it’s  for work and family—he’s not following  weather patterns. He surfs and sails as  much as he can, and he almost always  makes time for a ski trip at New Year’s  with his Prep buddies, including his old  science project teammate, Buerner. 

“We made a pact a long time  ago that every year we would pick a  different place to go skiing,” he says.  “It grew from just the guys to guys with  girlfriends, wives and now children.  We still manage to keep it up, and after  25 years there’s only a year or two that  I’ve missed.”