2021 BDC Engage: Fourth-year Overview
By Angelica Giansante and Alyshia Laidlaw
First off, we would like to congratulate both the third-year BDC students and the Master of BDC students for a tremendous event! In addition, we would like to thank the faculty members and professors who continually offered support during these difficult times, despite also having to adapt to this new environment.
Patricia Hrynyk, the morning’s keynote speaker, is currently the Director of Brand Marketing at Moderna Canada. It was great to hear from one of the members from Moderna, who is helping to aid in the fight against COVID-19 with their novel mRNA vaccine candidate. Patricia, an alumna from McMaster’s Biology and Pharmacology program, shared her personal experiences that led her to Moderna, including the pursuit of an MBA after obtaining her BHSc. She has had a plethora of industry experiences and has worked in multiple roles from sales to business development, as well as marketing at Innomar Strategies, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, and GlaxoSmithKline. Thank you Patricia, for highlighting your journey thus far and showing us the many opportunities possible after graduation!
The third-year BDC students then gave excellent pitch presentations on both treatments and diagnostics for a wide range of diseases including onchocerciasis, Parkinson’s disease, leber hereditary optic neuropathy, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer and many more! With the transition to online learning this academic year, it was outstanding to see what the students and mentors were able to accomplish despite facing ongoing obstacles.
Many of the students thoroughly strategized drug delivery methods and access to treatments in both developed and developing countries. Team D2 discussed DUET, a non-invasive diagnostic tool for ovarian cancer. DUET uses two aptamer-based assays in a device (similar to a pregnancy test) to detect biomarkers overexpressed in ovarian cancer. Another team, F1, presented Cutavax, a vaccine for ascariasis, delivered by a clickhaler commonly used for asthma and COPD treatment.
The winning poster pitch came from Team B2. Team members Denise Catacutan, Sanjum Hunjan, Andy Phan, and Nisarg Shah, who pitched Pancrimir, a microRNA diagnostic tool for pancreatic cancer. This team discussed many points relating to the commercialization of the tool including biomarker candidates, patient access, partnerships, licensing, and even a market analysis! It was clear that Team B2 used all the information and guest speaker expertise from their Drug Discovery and Development course to integrate this knowledge into their presentation. Overall, all the presentations were extremely well thought out and the posters were both creative and engaging.
In the afternoon, students in the MBDC program gave brief presentations on their internship experiences thus far. Group one included: Nikhil Sharma, Yonathan Agung, Yasamin Allahverdi, Dawood Al-Wattar, Shilpa Bhardwaj, Maaha Chaudhry, Christopher Juman, Katrina Cordovado, Aaron Park and Taneya Janakan. Yasamin talked about her time as a Business Development Intern at the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization, where she has assisted leading clients to the commercialization of their radiopharmaceutical products. We also heard from Shilpa, who discussed the impact of her work on the Femtech space as a Health Economics and Market Access Associate at Cosm Medical. The standout presentation and winner for the first session was Taneya, whose well-designed slides illustrated the story of her time as an Associate Product Manager at Horizon Therapeutics. Taneya currently works in the rare disease space and would like to continue in this area after graduating from the MBDC program.
The second session included speakers: Rachael Gregoris, Emily Xu, Bichoy Labib, Vraj Shah, Ainsley Lin, Jonathan Moroniti, Harry Sandhu, Reeta Nan, Ahsan Khan and Madison Kim. Ainsley described her experience in Regulatory Affairs at Roche, where she had the opportunity to lead an information session with over 100 participants! Madison presented a dazzling set of slides to illustrate her time as a Marketing Specialist Intern at Neurescence, an optical imaging company. Rachael took the best presentation prize for session two after describing her time as a Business Development Analyst at the McMaster Industry Liaison Office (MILO). Rachael has been able to gain lots of experience in the patent space at MILO and will leverage this when she starts her JD at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law this September.
In the final session were presenters: Parisa Agahi, Dennis Weber, Victoria Kirkness, Anson Lee, Dana Tyrie, Tameem Quader, Viktoriya Rybenchuk, Sohaib Syed, Thaaniya Nanthakumar, Grace Feng and Richard Wang. Parisa started off this session by giving an excellent talk about her time as a Clinical Data Management Intern at AstraZeneca. Victoria discussed her journey in helping guide commercialization from the bench during her time as a Market Research Intern in the Hirota Lab. The winner for this session was Sohaib, who gave an incredibly engaging presentation on his role as a Sales and Marketing Diabetes Intern at AstraZeneca. Sohaib made sure to get the audience involved by asking questions of us instead of the other way around!
The MBDC students did an excellent job speaking about their internship placements to-date. Their varied experiences demonstrate the vast scope of the world of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, as the students’ diverse roles highlight the many opportunities to be explored within the industry. As future MBDC students, the presentations opened our eyes to the endless internship possibilities the program has to offer!
Congratulations to all the winners, and a special thanks to the presenters for sharing their journey with us. Wishing you the best of luck in your future endeavours!
Feature Image: Third-year Winning Team – B2 – Denise Catacun, Sanjum Hunjan, Andy Phan & Nisarg Shah (pictured above)