Class of 1922 Career Development Associate Professor
Teaching at MIT Sloan since: 2000
MIT Sloan is a serious research environment, and that reverberates in the classroom. Students are eager to participate in research, not just review finished case studies. They understand that this is a work in progress. They appreciate that they're getting an opportunity to learn about the different pieces of the puzzle. Small classes make this possible. Students here have the opportunity to see research unfold. For instance, I had a Technology and Public Policy student from Singapore as a research assistant who helped us compare what's happening in biotech in Singapore. And I'm also working with an MBA student who is doing a thesis on the widespread use of Scientific Advisory Boards in the biotech industry, examining what makes them effective and when they don't work so well.
I get to work with a lot of interesting people. There's something very special about this industry. People in biotech are in it for a reason. They deeply want to make a difference. It's very rewarding to be part of that. But were also talking about risk-takers. From the time you have an idea until the patient benefits from it is often about 10 years — a very expensive process. People disagree about the numbers, but the financial risk is certainly enormous. A lot of these products fail along the way. People in this business are optimists and risk-takers by necessity.
Right now, among other projects I'm analyzing biotech companies in the United States that are working on leading-edge scientific innovation. How do they build organizations that continue to do leading-edge science, that stay deeply connected to thought leaders and experts at universities and medical schools, and that draw the innovations into the company while moving them toward clinical trial?
These companies have to find a way to learn from scientists, and that dynamic can be very complicated. Many of the people who succeed in making these kinds of connections can move seamlessly from one world to the other, between the capitalists and the scientists, and provide a bridge between them. At MIT, there is an exciting interface between the very different worlds of management and science. This environment is ideal for learning how to build a biomedical business that takes an idea from the lab, through the licensing process in the university, and then forges the best alliance with a pharmaceutical company. In my course on the biotech industry, students learn about the finance involved, the way to build effective organizations to commercialize biomedical ideas and how to stay alive, viable, and free of conflict of interest during this long and challenging process.