Kelvin Chan

Oxbridge Biotech Links Students with Industry Leaders

Writer
Graduate Division

Interested in a career in industry?

Students and postdocs from UCSF, UC Berkeley and Stanford University will gather on Monday, April 22, in Palo Alto to launch OBR-Bay, the newest chapter of the international student- and postdoc-led organization Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable (OBR).

The launch event, entitled “Opportunities and Volatility of Biotech Startups,” will feature a panel discussion with Rob Chess (Nektar Therapeutics), Toby Freedman (Synapsis Search), M. Kengatharan (Armetheon, Atheneos Capital) and Doug Fisher (InterWest Partners). A networking reception with refreshments will follow.

Originally founded in the United Kingdom as a collaborative effort of Oxford and Cambridge students, OBR facilitates conversations between life sciences trainees and academic and industry leaders working on the most pressing health care and life sciences issues. Through educational seminars and workshops, consulting projects and publications, OBR serves approximately 8,000 members worldwide.

What does OBR hope to do for the community in the Bay Area? To find out, I sat down with OBR-Bay president Nick Mordwinkin, a Stanford postdoctoral fellow studying induced pluripotent stem cells, and Kelvin Chan, OBR Head of U.S. Operations and a Scripps Institute PhD student in synthetic organic chemistry.

Synapse: How is OBR’s community engagement structured? What specific opportunities do members have for career and professional development?

Kelvin Chan: OBR is structured into three arms, all of which are designed to help members learn and develop skill sets to make them an asset in the local and global life science community.

First, we provide education through seminars, workshops, panel discussions and networking opportunities that help foster conversations and collaboration between students and postdocs in academia and industry professionals.

Second, we offer a value business consulting service, which allows for students and postdocs to immerse themselves in the business aspect of biotechnology, and gives them the opportunity to work with a multidisciplinary team of advisors on various projects.

Last, through our editorial arm, the Roundtable Review, we provide a resource for members to publish original commentary online, and with over 3,000 unique visitors per day, this helps members get exposure through writing.

Synapse: Will all OBR-Bay events be lectures or seminars? What other types of events do you have planned?

Nick Mordwinkin: We aim to provide education not only by providing high-quality speakers for seminars, but also through other innovative and interactive methods, such as workshops and an annual writing competition.

This year in the UK, we also launched the world’s largest business competition of its kind, the OneStart competition. We hope to be bringing OneStart to the Bay next year.

In addition, our Glasgow chapter will be holding an event that aims to put OBR members in the role of a pharmaceutical executive team. The goal is to sharpen students’ and postdocs’ commercial awareness and strategic thinking via an interactive board game. We absolutely don’t expect our members to grow tired of the programming we plan to provide through OBR-Bay.

Synapse: How can people get involved with OBR-Bay? What leadership opportunities are there?

Nick Mordwinkin: There is a multitude of ways for members to get involved, depending on the amount of time you are willing to commit.

We have chapter executive team positions available, which generally require a 10-15 hour per week commitment for one year. Currently, we have openings for Lead Editor, Marketing and Outreach, and Event Coordinator.

If you can’t commit that much time, we also have ambassador positions, which allow members to play various roles. Also, we have opportunities for members to develop communication skills by writing for the Roundtable Review, and participate in consulting projects with our consulting lead.

Synapse: I see the launch event is at Stanford. Will OBR-Bay events be open to students from other universities?

Nick Mordwinkin: Not only are all our events free and open to anyone, but we intend to hold future events on the campuses of UCSF and UC Berkeley. We fully understand how difficult it may be to travel to one of our events from other campuses, and we want to accommodate all members, regardless of where they are from.

In fact, we currently have over 20 people registered for our launch event from schools other than Stanford, as well as local startups and biotech companies.

Synapse: UCSF already has several fantastic resources for students interested in careers in industry, including the Business Club, the UCSF Entrepreneurship Center and Graduate Student Internships for Career Exploration (GSICE). What unique opportunities does OBR offer to UCSF trainees? How will OBR-Bay synergize with other groups at its member schools to provide the best experience for trainees?

Nick Mordwinkin: One of our main goals when launching in the Bay Area was to create an inter-campus platform, in addition to building a bridge between industry and academia, to promote discussions and collaborations.

Stanford also has fantastic resources for students and postdocs interested in biotech, and we are currently working with the leaders from these organizations as well. Also, we believe we provide benefits for our members that aren’t currently available.

As mentioned, we have our editorial arm and consulting arm, which provide unique chances for students and postdocs to get directly involved in the biotech industry. We also have the ability to leverage our large international network of over 8,000 members and community of partner organizations to provide opportunities that normally might be difficult to access.

Synapse: What was your personal motivation for becoming involved in OBR?

Nick Mordwinkin: Quite honestly, I have wanted to get involved with an organization in a leadership role since I started my postdoc at Stanford almost a year ago, but I was waiting for the right organization to do it with.

Oftentimes, politics and the needs and desires of the leadership team seem to get in the way of the organization’s mission. This isn’t the case with OBR. We are not a group of independent members; we are a hard-working team and family. We all have similar goals and dreams, and OBR gives members a fantastic opportunity to achieve these.

Kelvin Chan: There are many opportunities for students to become leaders in the local community, but few have a platform as large and as global as OBR’s.

I enjoy facilitating the communication between scientists and the business world, so I jumped on the opportunity when OBR was slated to make its trans-Atlantic voyage, to start the OBR-San Diego chapter. As Head of U.S. Operations now, I get the chance to build partnerships, think about global strategy, implement new programs and of course build up the OBR network — which I absolutely thrive on.

What makes it great is that the whole OBR family works as a team — there’s lots of positivity and encouragement within the team, especially since all of us are volunteers. I’m proud to have spent 14 months with OBR, and I can’t wait to be part of our next phase.

To learn more about the Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable, including how to get involved, please visit its website (http://www.oxbridgebiotech.com). Registration for the OBR-Bay Launch event is free (http://is.gd/zXJrGy) and participants are invited to submit their questions for the panelists beforehand (http://linkd.in/12OLlrw).