What makes working for a company like Celgene so unique?
"I think it is the importance of the work we are all doing. Every part of this company operates on its own level, but we are all focused on discovering and delivering new treatments for cancer and other diseases. In particular, the company's work in developing drugs for blood cancers such as multiple myeloma and MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome) has changed the way we look at those diseases. These were once thought of as incurable cancers, but our work is changing the perception to treatable chronic conditions."
What can I do to prepare for a career in biotechnology research?
"Like other scientific disciplines, a solid foundation in math and science lays the groundwork for moving toward a career in biotechnology research. To develop modern therapies, there are a wide range of focus areas that are involved including chemistry, molecular biology, computer science, microbiology, and even physics and engineering in the case of medical devices. Of course, one of the most important factors is to choose an area of study and an area of medicine that is most important and interesting to you. Internships and fellowships will also be critical to a career in biotechnology. The opportunity to obtain direct work experience and begin a learning path within an organization while in school creates not only the marriage between academics and experience but affords students the opportunity to get acquainted with a company and begin to make an early contribution to medicine and science.
Another area of preparation is leadership. Science and medical breakthroughs have occurred by those that had courage, perseverance, tenacity and a mindset to relentlessly see the possibilities and look beyond for answers. These competencies are those of an entrepreneur and a leader. A career in biotechnology for the 21st century will require a mindset of a strong scientist but the heart of a strong entrepreneur and leader. Influence and strong interpersonal skills, the ability to work across an organization and as a team player on a project team are critical to breakthrough solutions and key facets as one plans their career—gain these competencies early and develop them well."
What are some examples of other career opportunities outside of research?
"As biotechnology companies move their therapies through the approval process and into the market, there is a tremendous array of functions that help the company achieve its goals. Attorneys, human resource professionals, marketing specialists, salespeople, clinical development, data base and biostatistics specialists, computer systems specialists, communications practitioners and finance experts all play vital roles in creating a business environment where the company can work closely with regulatory agencies, attract the best people for open jobs, get its marketed drugs to people who need them and manage the financial well-being of the company to continue its growth and investment in new therapies."