BioCamp prompts young scholars to look at biotech
Today’s best young minds will soon be changing the world. Novartis has created a unique global initiative encouraging top students to apply their intellects in the biotechnology industry – and to think like entrepreneurs.
Sixty graduate students, selected as leaders by their universities in 27 countries, gathered Oct. 26-30 in Cambridge, Mass., for the fourth annual global BioCamp.
Gathering in US for first time
Since launching the BioCamp initiative in 2004, Novartis has introduced nearly 500 top graduate students to the biotech industry and entrepreneurship. Besides regional events in various countries, global BioCamp seminars have been held in Taiwan (2004), Singapore (2006), Tokyo (2007), Hong Kong (2008), and Cambridge, Mass. (2009).
The event at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) headquarters in Massachusetts was the first time Novartis has held its international BioCamp in the United States.
Coming together in the midst of the Boston-Cambridge area’s renowned academic institutions and life science business community, the young scholars completed an intensive three-day seminar introducing them to the biotech industry.
Looking inside the biotech world
BioCamp offers graduate students in science and business an intimate look inside the innovative, entrepreneurial world of biotech. Interacting with a faculty of seasoned managers, accomplished researchers and other experts, the students learn what it takes to create the biotech breakthroughs that truly are changing the world.
Among the vital topics for BioCamp scholars:
- The R&D process for medical innovations
- The value and protection of intellectual property
- Fund raising and the capital markets
- Regulatory environments in biotechnology
- Career paths combining science and business
- Management skills for the entrepreneur
As most of the students are research-focused degree candidates in scientific fields, the entrepreneurial emphasis of BioCamp is new for many. “This view changed my life,” commented one of the seminar’s alumni members. Another student said, “The BioCamp was spectacular … truly one of the most valuable experiences I have had.”
Getting practical with innovation
The young scholars start putting the entrepreneurial vision into practice right away by forming teams to create business plans around their own biotech product ideas.
Among 10 teams competing to develop business plans at BioCamp 2009, the winning group focused on a new treatment approach for sickle cell anemia. This team included students from the US, Canada, Japan, Russia, Hong Kong and South Africa.
The cross-cultural collaboration reinforced a lesson offered in a lecture by Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute in Cambridge. “Coordination and not competition” among research centers around the world is needed to find new cures and reduce suffering, said Lander, who also serves as co-chair of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
Preparing for life after schooling
BioCamp aims to prepare promising students to enter the “real world” after receiving advanced degrees, so the seminar is a quick survey of industry realities.
Faculty members from Harvard, MIT and Children’s Hospital Boston spoke on the practice of biomedical research and answered students’ questions about careers and the industry.
“BioCamp changed my life - I became aware I need to know the business to support my research,”
a BioCamp student said.
Several Novartis executives explained the company’s approach to targeting cellular mechanisms in order to discover treatments for diseases; the timely role of vaccine research and development; the challenge of global registration for drugs; and the value of protecting intellectual property for innovative products.
Building bridges for innovation
The BioCamp initiative is an ongoing outreach by Novartis. Building bridges between the biotech industry and universities, the program invites students chosen by leading professors. As an innovative global healthcare company, Novartis is committed to fostering an environment that places a high value on research and collaboration.