When I moved to Vertex in 2015 from the Broad Institute, I quickly recognized a gap in the biomedical ecosystem: there are precious few opportunities for young scientists and doctors to learn about the discovery of new medicines. Our goal in creating the Vertex Fellowship is to attract some of the most talented scientists and physicians to join Vertex for one year of immersive learning about the science of discovering and developing medicines. Vertex Fellows get to work as part of a team to create transformative medicines for patients with serious diseases, learn about the variety of functions that contribute to getting these medicines to patients, and receive mentorship from senior leaders.
We designed the Vertex Fellows program to be unique compared to academic postdocs and other industry postdocs. At one year, it’s shorter than a traditional postdoc and allows the Fellows to continue on either in academia or industry. The goal is an immersive experience, where each Fellow can be a meaningful contributor to a real drug discovery project. A few of the recent projects have been focused on structural biology (specifically cryo-electron microscopy), chemical biology (developing in-house assays for targeted protein degradation), protein-folding correction and computational genomics.
Another signature component is the Bootcamp Training Week, which is the formal kickoff to the program. The Fellows receive a one-week intensive training on drug discovery, manufacturing, commercialization and career development. The Fellows Bootcamp includes presentations from senior executives and provides direct access to company leadership. Heena Khatter, one of our 2019 Vertex Fellows, shared that bootcamp was a “perfect start to the Fellows program that set the fast pace and also gave us a perspective about Vertex and research in drug discovery.”
For Vertexians, the Fellows program is an opportunity to engage with highly successful, promising researchers, and have our thinking expanded by their perspectives. We encourage the Fellows to question our assumptions and provide input into real problems. More than 50 Vertexians are involved in the development of the program each year and we rely on them to train and mentor the Fellows, creating growth and leadership opportunities for our teams as well.
We welcomed the first class of Fellows in September 2016 and since then 25 Fellows have gone through the program. As we recruit for the next class, we are proud to help contribute to a scientific community that understands how new therapies are made. We know that drug discovery is a team sport and we are thrilled to be on the Vertex team. But we also believe that for drug discovery to succeed, we need a community of scientists in academia and at other companies to help us continue to evolve and innovate.
For more information on the Vertex Fellows program, please visit https://www.vrtx.com/working-here/early-career-programs#vertex-fellows-program