Academia to Biotech: Vertex’s New Program to Help Physician-Scientists Enter the Exciting World of Drug Discovery and Development

Nov 17, 2020

Academia to Biotech: Vertex’s New Program to Help Physician-Scientists Enter the Exciting World of Drug Discovery and Development

Physician investigators are uniquely qualified to leverage both their clinical and their scientific training to make an impact in how we care for patients and how we treat disease. Many physician investigators complete their training and have an interest in the biotech or pharmaceutical industry, but they don’t necessarily know where they fit in a company or how drug discovery and development really works. I was in this same predicament almost 20 years ago but fortunately landed at a company and in a role that fits my interests and allows me to learn and explore other aspects of drug development.

However, if I had to do it all over again, I wish I would have had an opportunity to learn about different areas of a company through a rotation. 

I’ve had the opportunity to work in various roles at different companies, and I joined Vertex last year and am currently the Head of Clinical Development for Vertex Cell and Genetic Therapies (VCGT). One of the things that excites me about coming to work every day is that Vertex is committed to developing both its people and its product pipelines. That is why I’m excited about a new initiative that is focused on supporting physician investigators, the Vertex Physician Investigator Career Development Program.

The Vertex Physician Investigator Career Development Program, which complements existing initiatives to train new-to-Vertex physicians on key aspects of drug development, was designed to create opportunities for exceptional early career physician investigators to join Vertex as full-time employees and receive hands-on drug development and leadership training as part of their career initiation in industry. The program will be a two-year, rotation-based, biotech training program for top physician investigators who are within five years of having completed their postgraduate training and have no prior industry experience. Our goals are two-fold: we want talented and committed physician investigators to join our team, and we want to help support their careers by providing a broad understanding of all the different aspects of drug development at Vertex.

Participants will be immersed in project teams as part of six-month rotations in research, development and two other elective areas (such as regulatory, global marketing, medical affairs and business development/external innovation). In addition to the experiential learning component, they will participate in didactic training, leadership training and peer-to-peer learning. They will also be paired with both a scientific mentor and a career mentor and have regular interactions with senior leaders to share their insights and experience.

Given the importance of such an initiative, the Vertex Physician Investigator Career Development Program is being co-sponsored by Vertex’s Chief Scientific Officer, David Altshuler, and Vertex’s Chief Medical Officer, Carmen Bozic. It takes a village to do this work, and I am thrilled to direct this effort with the support of a committee composed of senior leaders from across Vertex representing development, translational medicine, research, medical affairs, global marketing, human resources, regulatory, talent acquisition and external innovation. The program will be managed by Shaoyu Chang, a leader on the Vertex Innovation and External Research (VIER) team.

If you are a or know of a talented physician currently in academia who may be interested in our new Physician Investigator Career Development Program, please visit our website to learn more and apply.

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