From Bench to Boardroom

AIOG recently held their first virtual career seminar with special guest Andrew Levitt, an associate patent counsel at Cantor Colburn LLP. He summarized the key aspects of patent law and provided some background as to the transition from academia to law. Britt Knight, the post-doc liaison for AIOG, has written prior articles regarding these topics; for more information on patent law, please check those out (search “patent”)! A key piece of information that Levitt had to offer was that regarding the Hatch-Waxman Amendments. This is more formally known as the “Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984” and established the approval pathway for generic drug products. Applicants are able to submit an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, contained within these Amendments. Other provisions in these Amendments include patents related to new drug applications and 180-day exclusivity for certain AANDA applicants. Levitt expressed that patent lawyers who are well versed in this area are in high demand in the field.

Yet there are other channels for generic drugs being produced. For example, the current coronavirus pandemic is pushing governments to issue compulsory licenses to boost the production of generic drugs that treat COVID-19. A compulsory license is a license issued by a government to a public agency or generic drug marker allowing it to copy a patented medicine without the consent of the patent holder. In the past, countries had granted compulsory licenses to boost the production of drugs that treat HIV. 

Levitt also mentioned some helpful tips to individuals interested in transitioning from academia into patent law. What he cited as helping him make the jump were the services offered by the PLI, or Practicing Law Institute. This is a nonprofit organization that aids in enhancing legal knowledge and expertise. PLI offers educational programs and a patent office exam course, among other opportunities. Additionally, what Levitt found to be helpful was networking with other legal professionals.

Cowritten by Rachel Gilmore and Yuezhe Li

Sources:

https://www.fda.gov/drugs/abbreviated-new-drug-application-anda/hatch-waxman-letters

https://www.pli.edu/

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7273016

Yale provides career advice

Amidst the current uncertainty of the job market, you may be wondering how you can utilize your skillset to broaden your career landscape.  

On April 8th I “attended” the 37th career panel hosted by Yale University. The goal of the career panel series is to provide a candid view of the various careers that Yale alumni have pursued following completion of their doctoral degrees. 

The Panelists:

  1. Linshu Li, Associate, McKinsey (Yale Ph.D. – Applied Physics)
  2. Jorge Pedraza, Operating Partner, Melody Infrastructure Advisors (Yale Ph.D. Comparative Literature)
  3. Levi M. Smith, Pharm.D., PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Halda Therapeutics (Yale Ph.D. Cell Biology)

Moderator and Organizer: Peter Young, CEO and President, Young & Partners (Yale College, 1974)

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Below I have compiled some of the key points that arose from the discussion as well as some advice provided by the panelists. 

What possible careers may students consider after completing their PhD’s?

Some careers are more similar to the academic life such as reviewing grant proposals, journalism, editing peer-reviewed scientific articles or writing scientific articles etc. With regards to training within the Life Sciences, some of you may be inclined to pursue translational research and therapeutic approaches for healthcare management. This may include becoming a medical science liaison (see our previous article “Medical Science Liaison”) or working for a start-up company. Start-ups are great spaces to exercise your rigorous technical and experimental skills as well as to learn new skills in a fast paced and exciting environment. Levi Smith obtained his PhD from the Department of Cell Biology at Yale and is now a Senior Research Scientist at Halda Therapeutics in New Haven, CT. As a PhD at a start-up you may be tasked with leadership opportunities, such as planning experiments, which can ultimately direct the course of the program. 

Another option is to pursue the law sector. For instance, you could help scientists explain their scientific inventions (biological drugs, diagnostic assays, medical devices etc.) by drafting patent applications. Check out our previous article “what-is-intellectual-property” for more information about patents in the life sciences. 

Depending on your toolkit you may be qualified for positions that are a little more dissociated from the pillars of academia. To name a few, public policy, investment banking, sales and marketing, consulting, business development, regulatory affairs, or investment advising. I recommend getting a copy of the book “Alternative Careers in Science: Leaving the Ivory Tower” edited by Cynthia Robbins-Roth. The book costs less than $30 on Amazon.com and includes 23 chapters of alternative careers.

Although some of these positions may seem unfamiliar compared to what you are used to reading, they are worth considering. For example, Linshu Li received his doctoral degree in applied physics with a focus on quantum computing. After graduation he joined McKinsey & Co, an American management consulting firm. In comparison, Jorge Pedraza received his doctoral degree in Comparative Literature. After obtaining his degree he taught several courses at Williams College but eventually left to pursue business development and later, sales within the start-up realm. He also co-wrote The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan published by Wiley This book is for anyone taking on a new leadership position and how to be effective at managing your new team and career as a whole. 

Skills you’ve spent years learning and fine-tuning are transferable if you can understand the root of their value and how they can be applied to different industries. 

Wait! Before you get overwhelmed by this task let’s take a step back. Or rather, a step in. 

Reflect, Recognize, Redirect – the homework

After you have spent years conducting a thorough examination of your field, how are you planning to use your expertise? One of the biggest things you should consider when planning your future is you. 

Why did you choose to attend to graduate school in the first place? Majority of students probably mention that they have a love or fascination for a particular sect of science and although college provided a foundation of knowledge about this subject, they wanted to pursue deeper understanding of the material and contribute to the field. Or, maybe you had a mentor or professor that fostered your love to learn and supported your decision to pursue additional education. 

Over the past several years, what strengths have you learned about yourself?  What are your weaknesses? Or instead, because weaknesses sound negative, what areas you are actively trying to improve? As difficult as it may be, it’s important to identify the boundaries to which you work the most effectively and with the most satisfaction. 

What do you love about your job currently? What do you not love about it? Identify these traits and write them down.

By doing this exercise you will be able to reflect on what you have to offer. Your brand, if you will. By identifying your brand, you will be able to find the niche where you can best excel. The effort will also better prepare for interviews and for your job search as a whole.

However, taking an objective lens to our qualities and skills as a member of the workforce can be challenging. For most of us, we are analytical when it comes to science but not necessarily when it comes to ourselves. I encourage you to ask your friends and family to comment on your strengths (and areas of improvement if you are bold enough to ask for constructive criticism). 

In choosing to embark on a career path outside of academia, how should I prepare?

Use your network and talk to as many people as you can. Use these “informational interviews”  to obtain information about their journey as whole in order to understand the daily grind, particular qualities of the position, as well as other insights you cannot gain without first-hand experience. 

Consider the lifestyle you have as a graduate student. PhDs are very independent thinkers and like to work at their own pace to accomplish their goals. However, most positions in the real-world are not as flexible. For instance, you most likely will need to juggle multiple projects and facilitate collaborative efforts in order to complete important tasks. Amidst the chaos of answering emails and phone calls, make sure you include protected time within your schedule to allow you to work independently without interruptions.

Internships are a great way to test the waters of a new work environment. There are formal internships, but internships can also be what you make of them. You can initiate your own program by writing a project proposal or offering a service to a company. By being willing to volunteer your time and putting yourself out there you’ve shown great initiative. 

Not just for you, but your next employer may be interested to know what activities you’ve undertaken during your thesis. By taking a leadership position in a student-led organization, teaching basketball, or whatever you enjoy doing outside of lab demonstrates your ability to multi-task and provides evidence that you can make the transition from graduate life to corporate life. 

To get you started: 

For one, obtaining a PhD requires effective communication skills that are valued by most anyone. Publications may not seem useful outside of academia, but they do demonstrate your ability to execute a project and bring it to fruition. Other important skills are analytical and critical thinking. You have been trained to identify unknowns within your field and to design experiments to determine solutions to a problem. You might take these “soft” skills for granted but they are not easily acquired through other training programs. As a result of your perseverance, you have become an independent thinker and acquired a level of adaptability that enables you to accomplish your goals regardless of possible set-backs. 

Identifying your abilities apart from the technique-driven lab work may take some time but they are there. By obtaining doctoral training you’ve been equipped with several transferable skills that are highly valued by many professions. This is how PhDs have infiltrated a variety of fields including finance, business, and law. It’s not a mistake. The reality is that times have changed and you should use it to your advantage. 

Oh and, do your homework.

A Grad Student’s Guide to the CARES Act

By, Rachel Gilmore

It is an inescapable fact that our lives are being run by COVID-19. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, experiencing urgency unlike we have ever experienced before. As a result, individuals are making decisions for their businesses that would normally take months over the course of a few hours. To help US citizens cope with this difficult time, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Marcum LLP, a public accounting and advisory services firm recently conducted a series of online webinars regarding the tax implications of the CARES Act for individuals as well as for businesses. With all of the news the general public has to currently digest regarding COVID-19, it can be easy to miss how the CARES Act can impact us on an individual level. Below you will find an abridged version of how the CARES Act and the stimulus checks that the internet is buzzing about impacts graduate students.

The rules are as follows:

1.) Checks will be received in payments of $1,200 per person and $2,400 per married couple. Additionally, $500 will be given for every “qualifying” child, meaning children under the age of 17. This is a sliding scale based on income. Lucky for grad students, we don’t exceed the $75,000 annual gross income. In case you were wondering, the threshold doubles for married couples. If you do by chance break the income threshold, the payment you receive will have a $5 deduction for every $100 earned over the income threshold. To do some of the math for you, an individual making $99,000+ or a couple making $198,000+ will not receive a check. 

2.) Unfortunately, if you are a nonresident alien or a dependent, you are not eligible to receive a check. 

3.) If you have already filed taxes for the 2019 year, the IRS will base your stimulus check on the most current numbers. However, if you haven’t, don’t worry; the IRS will base the decision on the 2018 tax return. 

4.) You don’t have to do anything to receive the check. If you received your tax return with direct deposit, the IRS will use the same bank account for your stimulus check. If you don’t have direct deposit set-up, they will write out a check (disclaimer: receiving the check via the mail may take time). 

5.) There is a “true up” on the 2020 tax return, as this is technically supposed to be based on 2020 information. This means that once the 2020 tax information is available, if you were underpaid with the original check, you are entitled to the rest of the payment. If the reverse occurs and you are overpaid, no one really knows what’s going to happen yet. The House version of the Act said that you are not obligated to repay the overpayment, but that it could be considered as taxable income. The Senate bill (which is the version that was eventually passed) is silent on what happens if you’ve been overpaid. Stay tuned for updates.

For more information on how the CARES Act influences retirement plans, businesses, or sick pay, feel free to visit http://www.marcumllp.com/coronavirus. Here you can find more guidance & insights on the impact of COVID-19, including helpful links to webinars.

Edited by Brittany Knight

Interviewing a Clinical Geneticist

On March 4th AIOG hosted Dr. Hui Zhang at UConn Health to share her career experiences as a Clinical Geneticist. Dr. Zhang is an Assistant Professor of Genetics and Pediatrics as well as the Co-Director of the DNA Diagnostic Lab at Yale University. After earning her MD at Shanghai Medical University, Dr. Zhang went on to pursue her PhD at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. Once she became board certified in clinical genetics Dr. Zhang was hired at her current position at Yale University. During the presentation Dr. Zhang shared her journey to becoming a Clinical Geneticist and some of the insights she gained while pursuing this career path after completing her PhD. 

How do I become a Clinical Geneticist?

If you are interested in becoming a Clinical Geneticist you will need to obtain either an MD or PhD from an accredited American or Canadian program as well as become certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ABMGG). After that, you will need to apply to one of about 50 accredited training programs. These training programs offer two- to three-year fellowships in order to prepare you for a career as a Clinical Geneticist. More information can be found at the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics Website, http://www.abmgg.org/.

How hard is it to become a Clinical Geneticist?

Getting into an accredited training program can be difficult, since spots are limited and the program is intensive. Yale University is the only certified training program in Connecticut and offers about 1 spot per year. Successful applicants should have educational and/or research training in genetics and data analysis. In addition, candidates with post-doctoral experiences and/or a strong understanding of bioinformatics and next-generation sequencing will be more competitive. Overall, applicants with expertise in molecular genetics and mechanisms of genetic contributions of disease will certainly improve the odds of being accepted into one of the training programs.

What is the training program like? 

Specifically, at Yale University, the program focuses on the fundamentals of molecular and laboratory genetics, diagnostics, bioinformatics, genetic testing, and case studies. Students are asked to keep a log of their case work. There is a requirement for the total number of hours you need to log before sitting for the boards.  

To find out more information about Yale’s program: https://medicine.yale.edu/genetics/genetics/about/

What are your daily roles and what kind of patients do you work with?

Dr. Zhang works with a diverse group of patients of all ages and backgrounds. Most of whom are in the Yale hospital system and are referred to her when there is a suspected genetic mutation or disease. She oversees the clinical testing lab that runs genetic assays, analyzes the data, and determines diagnoses. Dr. Zhang follows cases from start to finish and signs off on the final diagnosis. Although Dr. Zhang no longer works in the lab, she stays up to date with the stream of new technologies and tools for analyzing sequencing results. 

Are there other things to know about the job?

Dr. Zhang had some final comments about being a Clinical Geneticist. 

  1. It is important to always have a positive attitude. Being a Clinical Geneticist can be a stressful and demanding job. Keeping a good work ethic and positive attitude will help you stay focused and motivated.
  2. Boredom is not part of the job description. This career motivates you to continue studying in order to keep up with the rapidly evolving Genetics field. Dr. Zhang said she is constantly reading new reports and scientific literature. 
  3. You may not have all the answers. Sometimes a Clinical Geneticist might be dealing with mutations or variants of unknow significance. Genetic testing does not always reveal the complete story and there will be times when you cannot make a firm diagnosis. However, even if this occurs, more often than not, patients tend to be happy to receive more information about their underlying condition. 
  4. One of the most important lessons of the job is to be responsible for the decisions you make. As a clinical geneticist you are responsible for determining the final call on genetic diagnoses and to do so, you may be tasked with leading a team. Although uncertainty definitely exists in the field, it is important to know how to make a decision with the information you have at the time. 

Are there other similar careers you can do with a PhD? 

Dr. Zhang said that she works closely with many PhD scientists and genetic counselors. There are many roles active in the diagnostic lab, individuals with expertise in genetics can conduct experiments that support Clinical Geneticists or counsel patients on their diagnostic findings. The field of genetic testing and studying gene disorders will most likely expand in the future as technology improves. Therefore, new career opportunities will emerge as scientists continue to discover and treat genetic conditions.

Thank you for reading and check back for more career information

Written by Dominique Martin

Edited by Britt Knight

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Insights Regarding the Path to Scientific Start-Ups

Dr. Levi Smith, a Senior Research Scientist from Halda Therapeutics, recently visited UConn Health to talk with graduate students, post-docs, and others about his path to working at a start-up company. For background, Halda Therapeutics is a research-stage drug discovery company based out of Branford, CT. Their mission is to create precision-based medicine using novel therapeutic mechanisms to treat a number of diseases.

Prior to Dr. Smith’s employment with Halda, he earned a Master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a PharmD from Butler University. He then attended Yale University to earn his PhD in Cell Biology by studying molecular mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease. While completing his dissertation, Smith also completed a fellowship with Canaan Partners, a Venture Capital Firm. During this fellowship Smith learned how to conduct due diligence of emerging investment opportunities within the therapeutic industry. Below are some of the topics that were discussed during the Q/A session. 

How do I choose which company to work for?

Deciding to work at a large or small company (start-up) depends on your personal goals and preferences. For example, at a large company an employee might have more opportunity to re-locate geographically or within departments.  However, at a start-up, there may be more opportunities for growth and chances to diversify your skill set. 

What is the hiring situation?

Dr. Smith found that the start-up biotech industry has a “fluid timeline” for hiring and that most companies know their hiring situation about a year in advance when they determine their yearly budget. This gives you, the job seeker, more than enough time to reach out, meet someone (e.g. informational interviews), and research companies that interest you. 

What if I don’t meet ALL the job requirements? 

He encouraged students to apply for jobs even if you do not meet every requirement on a posting. Companies can be flexible on their desired experience and requirements. So, if you feel like you are coming up short, don’t be alarmed, you might have what they are looking for. Visiting a company, say during the actual interview or for an informational interview, is a great way to gauge a company’s culture and whether you are a good fit. 

What if I’m asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)?

For background, a NDA, or a confidentiality agreement (CA), is a legal contract between at least two parties. This document outlines specific material, knowledge, or information that confidentially shared between the parties involved but not to third parties not included in the agreement. You may have experienced something similar already, without the formality of signing a document, when you visited the doctor or if you needed consultation by an attorney, priest, or bank. If during an interview, or after you are hired by a company, you are asked to sign an NDA Dr. Smith stressed that you should not be alarmed. There is no reason to hesitate signing the form. Just make sure to read it fully and understand what the expectations are. 

How do you get an industry job? 

First most, students or post-doctoral fellows whom are interested in a career outside academia should have a candid conversation with their supervisor/mentor about setting goals and achieving skillsets that will be pertinent for this transition. While completing these training periods students should devote time to networking and developing translational skills that will help their entry into industry. This could be an internship like Dr. Smith did at a Venture Capital firm. Dr. Smith suggested joining networking organizations and attending events, some of the local organizations he mentioned included BioCT, ABCT, and CT Innovations (check out our previous article about a recent ABCT and CT Innovations event on Intellectual Property). These organizations have newsletters you can sign-up for to learn about upcoming events. These events typically occur in Farmington, CT or in New Haven, CT. Attending these events and getting involved with these organizations can improve your chances of networking with companies and vendors, but also founders, scientists, and recruiters which may improve your chances of making the leap from academia to industry. 

Can you get a job right out of PhD? 

Dr. Smith disclosed some skepticism by those in industry when hiring someone straight out of a PhD program. However, marketing yourself, networking at the right events, and developing translational skill sets will aid in transitioning from academia to industry. 

How is a career in industry different from PhD life?

Compared to graduate school, his current position gives him a better work-life balance. He mentioned that his colleagues expect it to be this way. The biggest difference he noted is increase in work pace and the added value of his time. Also, during your PhD you are expected to master new techniques however in industry you work as a team or hire experts to advise you on topics outside of your area of expertise. Dr. Smith works collaboratively and overall, enjoys his current position. He enjoys sharing his experiences and offering insight to students and early career professionals interested in working for a start-up company.

Check back for information about our networking event in April! Also, stay tuned for more career insights. 

Co-written by Rachel Gilmore and Dominique Martin

Edited by Brittany Knight

What is Intellectual Property?

Disclaimer: None of the information listed below is considered legal advice and is provided for educational purposes only.

Featured image source

Yesterday afternoon the Accelerator for Biosciences in Connecticut (ABCT) hosted a workshop on Intellectual Property. ABCT is a highly competitive educational program designed to teach Connecticut’s academics, inventors, and founders of start-ups how to be successful entrepreneurs. This workshop was part of their continuing education for the accepted start ups that were recently selected for the 2020 program.

Selected start-ups are chosen based on set of parameters that demonstrate the novelty of start-up’s mission and their capacity to transform the life sciences industry. Accepted participants attend sponsored workshops, informational webinars, and interactive exercises to learn necessary business skills to develop their products and services. Eligibility includes residence within the state of CT and expertise in science, medicine, and/or technology.

Yesterday’s workshop consisted of networking and a moderated panel discussion by ABCT alum Patrick O’Neill of Connecticut Innovation featuring, Craig Kenesky Ph.D. J.D., an associate at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Tom Jarvie Ph.D., CMO and Co-Founder of Shoreline Biome, and Peter Cross M.S., Vice President of Intellectual Property at AON Risk Solutions. The general focus of the workshop was to discuss current topics regarding patents in the life sciences.  

For background there are four major areas of intellectual property

1. Patents– protect inventions. Example: U.S. Patent No. 5,901,666 defines and protects the invention of “Wearable Pet Display” that allows you to carry a small pet (e.g. hamster) on a vest or belt. The wearable habitat consists of transparent passages and pockets for feeding. 

2. Trademarks– “identifies” the source of a commercial good or service. Example: Paris Hilton was approved for the trademark “That’s Hot.” She even won a large lawsuit when Hallmark tried to use this phrase on their products.

3. Copyrights– protects the expression of works of authorship. Example: A German Chef copyrighted their carefully arranged dishes which requires that if an individual at their restaurant wants to photograph their dish before indulging, they must ask permission or be subjected to a potential lawsuit.

4. Trade Secrets– protects the know-how or technology that gives a company a “secret” competitive advantage. Examples: The Google search algorithm, the New York Times Bestseller List, Listerine, WD-40, Twinkies, McDonalds Big Mac Special Sauce, Krispy Kreme Donuts. 

Majority of life science company’s deal with patents so for the scope of this article, and based on what was discussed at yesterday’s event, I will focus on patents. 

A patent is a legal contract, issued by the government, that defines what the invention is, how to make it and how to use it, delineated by what are called “claims.”  This contract protects the invention and gives the inventor certain rights to their invention such as excluding others from making, using, or selling the invention. 

Definition: An invention is a discovery or idea that is made into a machine, product, or process.

In the life sciences this could be a reagent, an assay, or a technical process for measuring a molecule to name a few. 

There are 3 requirements for obtaining a patent for an invention

-The invention must have at least one utility  

-The invention must be novel

-The invention must be nonobvious (over what is already known, referred to as “prior art”)

With regards to “prior art” obtaining patents in the life sciences can be tricky. Prior art refers to publicly available knowledge of the invention such as a published abstract, journal article, or a social media post. Basically, anything searchable by the general public. This does not include a submission to the FDA or grant submission. However, once a grant is awarded and becomes available online then it becomes prior art and a patent cannot be granted (unless you applied for a provisional patent). This is especially tricky when it comes to the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. § 552) which means that unreleased information or documents controlled by the U.S. government can be disclosed/released upon a request to do so. 

So, you have an idea and you want to file a patent application… before you do that you shuld be aware of 3 exceptions to patent eligibility as defined by the United States Code title 35 section 101 (35 U.S.C. § 101). This is one point of contention in the field of law as well as life science.

The law states that a patent cannot be obtained on a law of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract idea.

The subject of “patent eligibility” has been a hot topic since two instrumental cases challenged and changed the system, the Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. (2011-2012) and Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International (2014) court cases. Recall the definition of invention. This classic definition defines criteria of a “thing” and the eligibility for obtaining a patent must not be a natural phenomena or abstract idea. However, this definition can revoke patent eligibility when claims describe a new process for measuring a drug effectiveness or a novel computational strategy for assessing financial risk.

An example of the first is demonstrated profoundly by the Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories court case. The Supreme Court denied eligibility to Mayo’s patent (US patent 6355623B2) because it claimed a law of nature. The claims described how to measure a metabolite of a drug based on an individual’s metabolism. In comparison, the Alice corp. court case challenged patents that comprised abstract ideas. Specifically, this patent’s claims described a computational method for mitigating settlement risk. The court determined Alice Corp.’s patent ineligible because the patent’s claims were directed towards an abstract entity: that implementing the calculation through a computer was not sufficient enough to transform the abstract entity into “something more” that could be patented. 

The outcomes of both of these cases established the 2-step Mayo/Alice test process for determining patent eligibility. 

Step 1- Is the patent claim in question directed towards a law of nature, a natural phenomenon, or an abstract idea? If no- pass or if yes- go to step 2

Step 2- Does the claim include additional elements that add “significantly more” or transform the invention into a patented product? If no-claim is ineligible or if yes- pass 

A great example of how a patent of an abstract idea was patented because it included claims that added “significantly more”. In the case, Diamond, Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks v. Diehr et al. (1981), the court ruled in favor of Diamond for their use of the Arrhenius equation to determine an effective and accurate way to process raw uncured synthetic rubber (US patent 4,344,142). Before this invention rubber making required continuous operator self-checking of temperatures and self-determining when the rubber was finished. This technique resulted in poor rubber construction due to the loss of heat every time the rubber container was opened for a temperature reading. Using the Arrhenius equation, Diamond established a revolutionary method for making rubber that was independent of an operator and he protected this process with a patent, not the mathematical equation. His invention revolutionized the field. 

As we work at the bench, we come across many specialized technologies that allow us to achieve our goals in science and our careers as a whole. One day you might come up with an idea that may help the process of scientific discovery, standardize the way we measure biological phenomena, discover a new way of targeting a disease process, or something entirely new and unexpected. If you do, great! You should protect your idea and consider forming a company to develop your product and more in the future. 

If you have an idea you think could be commercialized and you want to get involved with ABCT you should sign up for their newsletter. Visit their website to learn more about their program and look for information regarding the next round of applications  https://abct.co

To learn about the life Science company’s in the area, reach out or attend events hosted by the UConn Technology Incubator Program. BioCT is another great resource for connecting with start-up companies, entrepreneurs, and other professionals in the bioscience field within Connecticut. 

If you are interested in intellectual property or patents refer to the US Patent and Trademark Office https://www.uspto.gov/patent

Other websites with additional information:

https://www.patentdocs.org

https://patentlyo.com

https://www.essentialpatentblog.com

Medical Science Liaison

Do you love being at the front of scientific innovation? Do you love to share and explain science that you are passionate about to people in a digestible manner? Does the idea of traveling to new places and meeting new people appeal to you? 

Perhaps, you should consider becoming a Medical Science Liaison. 

Last week, the Academic and Industry Opportunities Group (AIOG) hosted Dr. Jellerette-Nolan Associate Director, Medical Science Liaison and Training Reproductive/Women’s Health at Ferring Pharmaceuticals. Ferring is a privately-owned biopharmaceutical company that develops drugs and technologies geared towards women’s health.

Dr. Jellerette-Nolan is an accomplished scientist with more than a decade’s worth of experience in clinical research and the field of embryology. She received her Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Reproductive Physiology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. After which, she worked as an Embryologist in the research and development department at GTC Biotherapeutics. With some industry experience, she decided to transition back to academia as an Assistant Professor of Research at the Baystate Medical Center. After several years conducting clinical research she made her way to the University of Connecticut as a Senior Embryologist Clinical Scientist at the Center for Advanced Reproductive Services. However, over the course of her career her dedication to networking eventually landed her an opportunity to change paths and disseminate her expertise as a Medical Science Liaison.  

What is a MSL: Medical Science Liasions (MSL) work within the medical affairs division of a company invested in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, or other health-related technologies (separate from sales and commercial divisions). MSLs are the “external face” of a pharmaceutical company. Typically, MSLs specialize on particular health-related topic (i.e. reproductive health, oncology, neuroscience) associated with the products the company has either acquired or formulated. They provide medical education and technical support for a company’s products. In addition, MSL’s may collaborate on different projects as new products are researched and developed. Depending on the size of a company, there may be several MSLs that cover similar or varying therapeutic topics. 

Today Dr. Jellerette-Nolan travels the United States and is responsible for a small team of MSLs comprised of medical health professionals and scientists that disseminate information about the latest technologies supported by Ferring Pharmaceuticals.

Characteristics of the MSL 

  1. heavy travel/ field work 
  2. Autonomous work environment 
  3. Flexible 
  4. Expert in a field(s) of Biomedical Science 

MSL positions are great for highly organized people with the stellar ability to micromanage their own time and accomplish a lot in an efficient manner. With a large amount of time devoted to working in the field, MSLs must be able to accomplish tasks on the go (i.e. on an airplane between appointments). Typically, MSL positions are advertised by topic (i.e. reproductive medicine) and by region. Which means, if you are interested in a position outside your realm of expertise, you will have to study hard and possibly relocate depending on the position. Don’t worry, if you are hired, the company will probably give you some time to learn the material but there will be a test! And most likely several tests to make sure you’ve mastered the material and can keep up with new information over time. 

If you are interested in becoming a MSL, here is a list of things a recruiter or your future boss might be looking for:

-PhD in Biomedical Sciences or MD

-Experience in clinical research

-Experience in research and development

-Outgoing personality 

-Networking experience (attendance of scientific conferences, participation in professional societies)

-Interpersonal skills (highly stressed)

-Effective oral communication 

-Data dissemination 

-Enthusiasm for science and technology 

-Engaging during group presentation and one-on-one conversations 

Stay tuned for future events including our Annual Networking Event held at UConn Health April 23rd 2020.

AIOG Moving into the Next Decade- upcoming events

My team of post-docs and students at AIOG are so happy to continue to grow our group, and help others figure out what kind of career is right for them. I thought I would reach out and let everybody know what we have coming up in the new year!

In January, we have two spectacular events. The first is with a Massachusetts based Medical Science Liaison who works in reproductive medicine and maternal health at Ferring Pharmaceuticals (stay tuned for our write-up on MSLs). Following that, we have recent Yale double degree graduate Levi Smith who will talk about how you can make yourself marketable to world of biotech.

After that, we plan on bringing more information about careers in medical writing, industry postdocs, teaching, regulatory positions, and science policy. Our local followers should stay tuned for emails regarding upcoming events.

Lastly, I would like to announce our 3rd annual networking event! We are excited to grow our networking event this year, featuring over 30 companies from CT, and students & postdocs from multiple CT universities. We are excited to have Dawn Hocevar, president of BioCT be our keynote speaker for this event!

Stay tuned for more articles! Follow our page and keep in contact with us. We can always be reached at acadindog.ct@gmail.com

Careers in Venture Development

Mostafa Analoui, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Venture Development and the Technology Innovation Project at UConn. He is also an adjunct professor of Biomedical Engineering. 

On November 18, 2019, Dr. Mostafa Analoui met with students and post-docs during an informational seminar at UConn Heath. His seminar came with a wealth of knowledge and experience which he shared regarding the reality of entrepreneurship and innovation within the field of biomedical science.

Before working in venture development, Dr. Analoui was also a professor, academic entrepreneur, successful startup founder, corporate research and development leader, and an investment manager. This career trajectory led him to experience any facets of biomedical innovation and product development to which he shared some of his insights with UConn Health students. 

Dr. Analoui explained some of the myths and realities of developing a new drug or medical device and the challenges of working in the biomedical sciences field. He spoke on some of the pros and cons of working in the biomedical field such as, identifying investors, understanding the United States healthcare market, and working through the pre-clinical and clinical trial phases of research and development. 

Key take-aways from the seminar:

First, innovation and entrepreneurship is not always a linear journey.

Instead, small steps lead to increased innovation over time. Dr. Annaloui compared biomedical product development to the high jump. Although it might look like the high jump Olympic record gradually increased over time, there were actually new innovations in jump style and approach along the way that made this possible. From the scissors method, to the western roll, to the straddle, and finally the Fosbury flop, each new method allowed for a slightly better high jump. Product development works the same way. Small steps over time lead to innovation and improvement, but this is not a continuous journey. There are plenty of flops and failures along the way that lead to eventual success.

Second, Dr. Analoui mentioned that the first product on the market will not necessarily become the lead.

He brought up the example of statins, a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol. Mevacor, also known as Lovastatin, first entered the market in 1987. However, the statin Lipitor is the best-selling drug of all time and entered the market in ten years later in 1997. Although some believe that being the first to market might give you an advantage, it does not guarantee success. Instead, having a quality product, good investors, and a solid marketing strategy might help you more. 

Third, Dr. Analoui addressed the large time and money expenditure that it takes to bring a product to market, and that there is a high risk of failure.

It is important to find investors and realize that it takes about one billion dollars to develop a new molecular entity for a new target. In comparison, it takes a fraction of that, about $100,000, to develop an app. Another point Dr. Analoui hit on was that even if you invest money and time into a product, there is still a very high risk of failure. First, it takes years of research to develop a new drug target. Then, only 5 in 5000 drugs that enter pre-clinical testing enter human trials. Of that, usually only 1 of these 5 drugs will be approved by the FDA. There is high reward associated with drug or medical device innovation, but having a realistic mindset about product development is crucial. 

On a final note, Dr. Analoui’s said that there are many ways to get a product into development or to become an entrepreneur. To do so takes a diverse team with varied backgrounds to launch a successful product and the best way to enter this field is to be passionate about your work, have an innovative idea, a business plan, and a realistic mindset about the challenges todays biomedical entrepreneurs face. 

This article was written by Dominique Martin

I am currently a first year PhD student in the Biomedical Science program at UConn Health in Farmington, CT. My research involves understanding metabolic changes associated with aging. I originally thought that I wanted to be a veterinarian. However, after getting involved in undergraduate research, I found that I was more drawn to working in a lab and conducting exciting new experiments. Although I just started my PhD, I am interested in learning about the many opportunities within the biomedical science field.

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