The Alliance aims to bring together Scholars of the NIH Oxford-Cambridge/Wellcome Trust Programme with leading academics, entrepreneurs, financiers, policy makers, and practitioners to help solve the problems that are highly relevant to society. Each year, six Scholars are invited to New York City to attend career development field trips leading up to the Lasker Awards.
A visit to Regeneron provided the Scholars with an opportunity to visualize, experience, and discuss careers in industry. The Scholars were introduced to the post-doc program at Regeneron and learned about their exciting projects and collaborations. Each of the Scholars prepared short presentations, which provided the scientists at Regeneron insight into the exciting work being done at the NIH, Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Manchester. After the presentations, the Scholars were invited to have lunch with scientists and were given the opportunity to meet one-on-one with scientists of their choice. “I had a one-on-one with Dr. Andrew Murphy who is the EVP of Research,” explained Scholar Samuel Katz. “I wanted to ask him about some projects he was on and get his feedback on some ideas I’ve been thinking about. It was a very interesting discussion, I completely forgot to eat!” Scholar Daniel Bronder also met with Regeneron scientists over lunch and stated, “I particularly enjoyed meeting Drs. Crawford and Gurer over lunch and gaining more insights on their respective science. It was really cool to read their papers and then sit down with them to have a conversation.”
Following lunch, the Scholars toured Regeneron’s facilities and learned about the technology they use. Scholar Audrey Winkelsas learned that the Regeneron Genetics Center is generating four to five terabytes of data per day and sequencing approximately 10,000-15,000 exomes per week! They viewed robotized laboratories, challenging their thoughts about what science looks like when tasks such as pipetting and plating are automated. These automations create datasets which facilitate bioinformaticians’ pipelines. The Scholars listened in on a very diverse set of scientific talks, including one about a potential treatment for cardiovascular conditions and one on the response to the Ebola virus outbreak. “The trip to Regeneron was an insightful look into what science in industry really was like. It was refreshing to hear from the representatives how the driving force behind their innovation was not profit, but the science. This definitely broke down some of the preconceived notions I had about working in biotech, and everyone we met was very welcoming and seemed very happy to be working there,” stated Scholar Jessica van Loben Sels.
The following day, the Scholars visited Arsenal Capital Partners. The goal of this visit was to provide the Scholars with a bettering understanding of the role of business and specifically private equity investments in the healthcare sector. Scholars gained an understanding of how Arsenal invests in outsourced business service companies that focused on biopharmaceutical research, development and commercialization, and services to providers and payors with an aim towards improving efficiency and reducing costs. “The visit to Arsenal capital provided a unique introduction to the role of private equity in healthcare and biotech, which I had no previous exposure to. It was very interesting to hear the partners discuss the mission of Arsenal capital in improving healthcare and has created for me a newfound curiosity about private equity,” remarked Scholar Andrei Ramirez-Valdez.
The Scholars presented their research to a group of pharmaceutical executives, healthcare investors, and Alliance Board Directors. Scholar Kathleen Bashant-Day stated that “this was an opportunity to pitch our research in a setting that we hadn’t before been exposed to. It was interesting to see how business-minded people approach science and gratifying that they were excited about what we are doing.”
That evening, the Scholars were the guests of honor at a cocktail reception held in the home of Alliance board member Ann W. Jackson. Guests included individuals representing science, business, academia, private industry, philanthropy, the Lasker Foundation, and their 2019 essay contest winners, as well as New York City area alumni and NIH OxCam program faculty.
We gratefully thank Dr. George D. Yancopoulos and his colleagues at Regeneron, Arsenal Capital Partners, and with the supporters of the International Biomedical Research Alliance for their contributions to the experiences and events that provided an invaluable visit to New York for the Scholars.