Drug Hunters Reunited After 28 Years

In the early 90’s, Wayne (Haifeng) Tang and Ray Zhao formed a friendship in high school in China. They were both stellar students in chemistry, and each was one of the country’s fraction of a percent to ace the notoriously difficult college entrance exams to land in China’s best universities. Wayne moved to the University of Science and Technology in China (sometimes called “China’s MIT”) and Ray moved to Peking University (“China’s Harvard”). The two gradually lost touch – high school would be the last time they would see each other in person for nearly three decades.

When Wayne, now VP of Drug Discovery at Schrodinger in New York, showed up at our Drug Hunter mixer in Manhattan, Ray couldn’t believe his eyes; there came his high school classmate in person!? Ray, a Principal Scientist at AbbVie in South San Francisco, had flown in for the ACS National Med Chem Symposium, and Wayne was the last person he expected to see. 

It turns out, both had taken similarly rare paths after college in China. Ray moved to New York to pursue a PhD at Stony Brook University in organic and medicinal chemistry, while Wayne moved to Connecticut to pursue a PhD in total synthesis at Yale. Ray started a career in pharma at Genentech on the West Coast, ultimately landing at AbbVie. Wayne started at Merck in New Jersey, before being poached by Schrodinger to advance its drug discovery capabilities. “I saw Wayne’s publications, so I knew he was also doing medicinal chemistry and drug discovery,” added Ray.

Wayne Tang, VP of Drug Discovery at Schrodinger, and Ray Zhao, Principal Scientist at AbbVie, reunite after 28 years at the Drug Hunter mixer in New York City

Ray found out about Drug Hunter and our event through his AbbVie colleagues, who consistently describe Ray as a friendly and brilliant chemist. Wayne, one of Schrodinger’s stars, learned about the mixer through colleagues working on a Drug Hunter article. Amidst the 57 attendees, we discovered the pair at a table laughing over champagne, catching up on nearly thirty years of lost time. “This mixer is FANTASTIC!” Wayne shouted.

One of our goals at Drug Hunter is to connect and reconnect industry professionals, and nothing makes us happier than stories like this.

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