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Engineering a path from science to business

Cross posted from the Trade Secrets blog

James Taylor

The folks at Nature Biotechnology asked us authors for a description of how we’ve navigated our careers from bench to business. My story is still a work in progress, but as a recent Ph.D. I do have some lessons for how you can prepare yourself for a career beyond research. First here’s a brief bio to give insight into my perspectives and biases.

I completed an Engineering Physics undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia, with a focus on wireless and photonics. During this time, I worked at my first startups as an engineer, which ultimately sewed the entrepreneurial seeds. Following, I decided to pivot and apply my engineering skills to health and completed a Ph.D. in Genetics at the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB). My decision to conduct a Ph.D. was driven by my interest in the commercialization of advanced technologies and the ISB was a fantastically entrepreneurial organization to pursue this goal. Concurrent with my Ph.D., I was fortunate to work as a venture capital fellow at the ISB-affiliated venture capital firm, the Accelerator Corp. This was a tremendously valuable experience and during my three-year tenure, the Accelerator team started 7 biotech companies. After my Ph.D., I started looking for my next startup opportunity and met my co-founding team while working at an innovative technology transfer group, the Centre for Drug Research and Development. About 1.5 years ago I jumped ship to be a co-founder and CEO of Precision NanoSystems, where we are developing technology at the convergence of drug delivery, nanotechnology and genomics.

During my tenure as a Ph.D. student I often contemplated how to best use the degree to achieve my business goals, and as some of you are likely realizing, the path from bench to business is not always clear. Here are some lessons I learned during my degree that may be helpful for those wanting to pursue an entrepreneurial or business career:

Experience more than your Ph.D. offers

Graduate or postgraduate studies are designed as a scientific training ground for a career as a scientist or professor. The knowledge gained is narrow and the skills learned are specific. For anyone serious about transitioning off the bench, you will need to actively pursue additional experiences and skills outside of your research work.

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