On Wednesday, November 25, 2015, students, faculty, and esteemed guests gathered in CIBC Hall at McMaster University to attend the Inaugural Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization (BDC) Symposium, which celebrated the official launch of the BDC program. After a warm introduction by Dr. Eric Brown, Director of the BDC program, and Sean Van Koughnett, Associate Vice-President and Dean of Students at McMaster University, attendees had the privilege of listening to expert speakers from diverse backgrounds in science and business.
Keynote speaker Ms. Catherine Rice, VP of Marketing and Market Access at Novo Nordisk, began her speech by discussing the various roles she fulfilled within the pharmaceutical industry. Ms. Rice stressed the importance of diversifying one’s personal experiences to explore different fields of interest and to discover where one’s passions lie. The keynote speech was followed by career talks from Chris Delvecchio, Senior Consultant, Shift Health Consulting; Megan Coombes, Reimbursement & Health Economics Manager at Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd; and Geordie Stewart, Client Services Analyst at Innovation Factory. These talks offered an innovative perspective of the complementary relationship between a conventional pharmaceutical career and the additional management consulting opportunities in the field of drug discovery. Furthermore, the speakers praised the BDC program’s interdisciplinary pedagogy, which offers students both biomedical knowledge and business acumen. As such, graduates of the program will be aptly prepared to assume a variety of roles within the pharmaceutical industry, thus making the BDC program unique from other existing science programs.
Attendees had the opportunity to learn about the diverse research being conducted by the fourth-year BDC thesis students, with research topics ranging from the investigation of various cellular signalling cascades to the exploration of novel enzyme inhibitors. The poster session presented an occasion for students to demonstrate their extensive knowledge in their research areas. The quality of the students’ research clearly reflected their hard work and dedication, highlighting the invaluable hands-on research experience that students in the BDC program acquire.
Students had the opportunity to expand their professional network by connecting with professors, researchers and members of the Life Sciences and business industries. Undergraduates passionate about pursuing careers in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries were given advice and insight into various career paths. This reveals a unique and distinguishing feature of BDC program: students are offered numerous opportunities to network with influential members of the local pharmaceutical industry.
Another highlight of the symposium was the recognition of the recipients of the Deborah M. Brown Scholarship in Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization. Established in 2012, this $5,000 entrance scholarship was created in honour of Ms. Deborah M. Brown and is awarded to incoming BDC students who have demonstrated excellence in academic achievement. Ms. Brown, past Chair of the Rx&D Board of Directors and past President and Managing Director of EMD Serono Canada Inc., trusts that the interdisciplinary nature of the BDC program will nurture future entrepreneurs with foundations in both science and business within Canada. She aspires for the future success of BDC students and hopes that “[BDC students] have a broad exposure [and] lots of chances to work in different walks of life, and… that they translate that all in 5 to 10 years into wanting to run their own or contribute to Canadian-based or global enterprises where there’s a strong Canadian core in terms of bringing those innovations to life.”
The Inaugural BDC Symposium was a special occasion to celebrate the launch of the BDC program, bringing together students and local members of the pharmaceutical and business industries. Not only did the symposium highlight the importance of integrating scientific discovery with business acumen, but it also offered a valuable networking opportunity to provide BDC students with the foundation to make informed decisions about their future career paths. Finally, this event was a reminder to the current cohort of students of the “big picture” behind the program and the potential of its students to directly enter the pharmaceutical industry upon graduation from the 4+1 Bachelor-Master’s program.