Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Around Campus | Of Interest | Career Development | March 19, 2015
Students in the “Topics in Translational Medical Product Development” course are able to meet a CEO or a Vice President from different biotech
companies in San Antonio every week.
“The idea is to create an educational platform for students,
faculty, and anyone interested on the topics of biomedical startups and entrepreneurship,”
said Dr. Andrea Giuffrida, course director and vice president of research ad
interim at UT Health Science Center.
Anna Mancha, a graduate student in the Cancer Biology program
explained that the course is a great way for her to learn how about different
ways to use her degree in addition to learning how a product goes from an idea
to fruition to the market.
“We’ve seen anything from scientific liaisons to patent
attorneys to people who started biotech companies, some who failed, some who
flourished, and some who failed and flourished,” Mancha said. “It’s been a cool
journey to see what I can do with my degree.”
Dr. Giuffrida explained that the class has strengthened our
relationships with local San Antonio biotech companies.
“By involving the community, we are able to provide students
with the best local experts on a subject they want to learn. These people have
also been around for a long time and can provide case studies on the ins and
outs of the process of developing a new drug or medical device,” said Dr.
Giuffrida. “Working with us is also a good way to pick up new collaborations
with the private sector, so it’s a win-win situation.”
Dr. Pratap Khanwilkar, vice president of product development
at InCube Labs agreed and explained these partnerships help improve health
outcomes for patients.
“Some of the research here has commercial value and we are
always looking for new technologies that can become the next company. UTHSCSA
researchers want to help patients and many want to see their research used in
patients but you’ve got to start a company to do that. We bring the business
support and collaborate with the researchers to finance and manage it so that
it can get there to actually help patients,” said Dr. Khanwilkar. “It’s a long
road so you need different skills along the way.”
Ahsan Choudary, a graduate student in the Translational
Science Ph.D. program, explained that the class helps him think about the
tools he needs in starting a biotech start-up.
“I’ve learned that there is a different mindset that is
needed. You have to be good at so many disciplines besides the science portion
of it,” Choudary said. “You have to understand business, you have to understand
leadership skills, and not everybody can be a jack of all trades so you have to
work with a multidisciplinary team to accomplish these goals.”
Choudary explained that with the decrease
in National Institute of Health (NIH) funding, he believes that more
students are open to the idea that science is something that fits very well
with a business model.
“When a lot of people hear about combining science and
business, they think it’s terrible because they think about multi-national
million-dollar drug companies and they are thinking about the bad sides of it.
What they are not thinking about is all the benefits that come with it,” Choudary
said. “They are not just out there to make money, they are also pushing
research forward and helping make lives better.”
Catherine Cheng, a graduate student in the Integrated
Biomedical Sciences (IBMS) program, said that the class is a great way for
her to network without going to a networking event.
“We all know what happens at networking events, you
immediately gravitate towards the people you already know. While it’s valuable
to reinforce these connections, what we need is a more representative sample,”
Cheng said. “What we get through the class is a curated roster of the most
influential people in the local biomedical business community—a diverse group
of professionals with very different job functions and product types—and it’s
unlikely that we would be able to meet all these people through networking
efforts of our own.”
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