Biotech industry training offered from coast to coast this summer


Coast to coast, the biotechnology industry continues to offer exciting options for doctoral or postdoctoral trainees who wish to pursue a nonacademic career path. The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) offers two, week-long, hands-on courses to help current or recent PhDs transition into biotechnology, medical technology, or pharmaceutical careers.

Registration for either session is $875, which includes tuition, course materials, some meals, and dormitory accommodations. Thanks to support from Biogen, scholarships ranging from $200 to $400 are available.

To register and for more information, go to

On the East Coast, the course will be held May 31-June 6 at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, at the Manning School of Business. On the West Coast, the course will be held July 12-18 at the Keck Graduate Institute, Claremont, California. Attendees will get a behind-the-scenes look at the biotechnology industry from experts working in the field. Topics covered include commercialization of science, market assessment, bioscience business models, strategy and innovation, entrepreneurship, and more.  Participants also learn how they can translate the skills they acquired in graduate school into skills vital to business management.

“I absolutely would recommend this course to my peers,” said University of Chicago postdoc Nan Xia, who attended the 2019 course at UMass-Lowell. Her comments echo those of other program attendees. Lacking any business background, the weeklong series of lectures, guest speakers, and case studies “were like an MBA course,” Xia said. “Also, the networking here is perfect,” she added.

“What ASCB offers in this summer course is a really great jumpstart on seeing what the biotech industry has to offer in a very in-depth manner,” said University of Georgia grad student Walter Woodside, who also attended the 2019 east coast course. For Woodside, a most valuable experience was interacting with career panelists in one-on-one conversations about their career paths and the turns they wish they had made, where they ended up, and other “inside scoops” about industry careers, whether in large organizations or small startup companies.

On both campuses, attendees hear presentations from industry leaders. For example, Steven Casper, dean of the Keck Graduate Institute’s School of Applied Life Sciences, presented the lecture, “Social Networks, Entrepreneurship, and Career Development,” which drove home why social capital and networks matter. Social capital is the ability to leverage relationships for economic gain, he said, explaining the ethical nuances of that ability. Casper underscored his message with graphs showing dense network clusters of senior managers and others in major cities.

For Pooja Bhardwaj, a postdoc at the University of California, San Francisco, who also collaborates with a startup company focused on enzymes to block HIV infections—the west coast course provided immediate practical applications. “I didn’t understand the business side and what goes into the commercialization of products and product development,” she said. But what she learned “will really help me talk to investors, business people, and entrepreneurs” in the Bay Area’s startup culture, she remarked. The networking connections she made during the program will be helpful throughout her career, Bhardwaj added.

This article contains reporting from David Clarke.

About the Author:

Mary Spiro is ASCB's Science Writer and Social Media Manager.