This year, BDC Engage was held on Friday, April 5, 2019. Students, faculty, staff, and industry members gathered early in the morning to listen to presentations, partake in a networking session, and view posters made by students of the Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization (BDC) and Master of Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization (MBDC) Programs.
The event started off with a keynote from Jim Hall, Vice President and General Manager of Covis Pharma who emphasized the importance of networking, specifically “ABN” (always be networking). Following the keynote, there were a series of talks from MBDC students and alumni. First, alumnus Tom Wei shed light on his role as a Global Health Economics and Market Access associate at Johnson and Johnson. Then, MBDC candidate Daniel Celeste showcased his role at Bayer as a Medical Operations and Governance Intern. Finally, MBDC candidate Alice Guan talked about her time as a Hematology-Oncology Marketing Intern at Celgene Inc. All presentations focused on the speaker’s personal journey and advice for students in the audience.
Jim Hall, VP and General Manager Covis Pharma, delivers an engaging keynote presentation.
“The presentations were amazing. It’s nice to hear about how BDC students apply what they learn in the classroom to their new positions. We’re happy to see how they continue to advance and build upon their knowledge,” said Dr. Brian Coombes, Chair and Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University.
Ellie Voutsinas, Digital Marketing Specialist at Haltech Regional Innovation Centre, said, “The students had strong presentations and it was evident that the BDC program prepared them well to be strong, articulate speakers. I noticed that the presenters followed similar structures and delivery styles. Overall, the students were very well-spoken, and professional.”
After the presentations, third-year BDC students and Master’s students displayed their commercialization project and internship posters during a networking session. During this time, many students reflected on their BDC experiences. Alice Guan, MBDC student, emphasized how BDC differs from other undergraduate programs. “The BDC program teaches hard skills in biochemistry and business, but the most valuable of all was the soft skills I learned. These soft skills, such as collaboration or self-directed learning, are invaluable traits to have while working in the biopharmaceutical, biotechnological, or medical devices industry.”
Konrad Noronha, Director of Marketing and Head of Market Research at Celgene, backs up Guan’s claims. “We’ve had two BDC students so far, and they have come in academically prepared. However, what is more impressive is their open-mindedness, positivity, and willingness to learn. BDC students like Alice are strong in independent learning. For example, she is constantly doing research to best prepare for meetings and to inform her work. This, coupled with her personal drive to succeed, has enabled Alice to exceed our expectations.”
BDC students learn about various industries and roles during the MBDC poster presentations.
Kirill Pankov, a BDC and MBDC alumnus, followed the program’s development throughout the years. “BDC has made good connections with industry members. When the program first came to these big companies, I imagine they were kind of confused. But now, they have a better idea of BDC’s performance and reputation. The program prepared me for my experience at Enhanced Medical Nutrition. Not only did I obtain science and business knowledge, I have also learned to work without strict guidelines. The program has taught me how to be self-guided, open-minded, adaptable, and 100% okay with standing out from the crowd. If I were to sum it up, BDC makes you comfortable with the uncomfortable!”
Henry Hu, MBDC alumnus, who also works at Enhanced Medical Nutrition, provided some insight about his own experience. “I came through biomedical engineering and did two years of healthcare investment. I came back to school for the MBDC program. I found MBDC to be the perfect mix between business and biotechnology. Although I already had a master’s degree going into the program, I benefited from the connections I developed throughout the year. Other master’s programs do not have the same quality of networking opportunities compared to MBDC.”
After the networking sessions, two fourth-year BDC students presented their thesis research. Jason Tran from the Hyne’s lab investigated how natural competence enables bacteria to upgrade its CRISPR-Cas spacer memory to gain immunity against bacteriophages, and Sarah Hordienko from the Coombes’ lab explored the role of the type IV secretion system in the pathogenesis of Crohn’s Disease-associated Escherichia coli. To conclude the event, three third-year BDC groups out of a total of twelve were selected to present their commercialization projects. The selected groups pitched their ideas to the audience, treating them like a group of potential investors.
Dr. Yingfu Li announces the BDC third-year group presenters.
Overall, students felt that they benefited from the event. “I am thankful for BDC,” says Lucy Zhou, a fourth-year BDC student. “Students usually don’t have the opportunity to network with staff, students, and industry members. These opportunities help me prepare for the next steps after graduation. They have helped me understand different roles within companies, and this gives me more direction and insight when applying for a full-time position.”
Dr. Andrew McArthur, Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences and Cisco Research Chair in Bioinformatics, said, “I enjoyed this year’s BDC Engage. The poster sessions went well. I can tell that students are getting stronger every year, and faculty is getting better at tweaking the program for future students.” He leaves us with a suggestion. “In the future, it would be nice if we could hear a company’s perspective on the MBDC internship. This way, we can see the whole picture: how interns benefit from companies and how companies benefit from the interns.”