What does a career in science look like? How do entrepreneurs develop new biotechnology products? What sort of opportunities are there in the pharmaceutical industry? These were the questions foremost in participants’ minds as the 2013 International BioCamp reached its third and final day at the Novartis headquarters campus in Basel, Switzerland.
The 4th International Biotechnology Leadership Camp saw 60 students from 21 universities around the world take part in workshops and discussion groups as well as listening to presentations by top scientists and executives at Novartis. Among the highlights was an address by Nobel Laureate and Novartis board member Rolf M. Zinkernagel, who recounted his career in science and the issues and challenges that he had encountered.
With the focus on biotechnology, students attended presentations on the challenges start-ups face, the importance of protecting intellectual property, the commercialization of new ideas and the entrepreneurial burdens of running your own business. Fired up by an outline of the key challenges by start-up entrepreneur Dominik Escher, CEO of ESBATech, and Professor Francis Waldvogel, Chairman of the Novartis Venture Fund, students then took part in a group competition to develop a new hypothetical biotech business.
Elisa Weiss, a participant from Germany, said: “We’ve had so much input and information from all the presentations but the competition really made us see how important each strand was. No one on my team had a clue how to create a business plan or about business strategy so we had to think on our feet when we were doing all the planning.”
The competition gave us the perspectives of people from different backgrounds, including finance, medicine and science, which meant we had to think about things we never get exposed to at university. I’ve seen how all the different parts of the business come together and that’s been very interesting.
Ann Fudge, a Novartis board member and named by Fortune magazine as one of the Most Influential Women in Business, praised the students for their initiative, interest and eager curiosity.
“It’s such a thrill to see all the students here. They are setting out on a life-long journey. What I say to them and what I hope they take from their time here is that in a world where there’s such conflict, they have to find a way to make a difference. I urge them to take the kind of experiences they have had here and share them when they get home.”