NCBiotech’s Industrial Fellowship Program Leads to New Careers

By Jeremy Summers, NCBiotech Writer

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Industrial Fellowship Program provides opportunities for Ph.D. scientists from the state’s many prestigious universities to gain valuable industry-based experience. 

Often, it allows the program’s participants to utilize their education in new ways, by allowing them to start careers with the state’s life-science companies.

Meredith Brown, a post-doc from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is nearing the end of her time in the program and now has an exciting future at a growing company in one of the state’s largest growth industries.

In July 2010, Brown began a two-year industrial fellowship at Metabolon, a Research Triangle Park-based diagnostics products and services company.

When she finishes her fellowship at the end of July 2012, Brown will continue full-time at Metabolon, building on the experience she gained during her time in the program.

“I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to have a career in industry,” Brown said. “It’s a very unique program.”

Networking at NCBiotech made a difference

After graduating from UNC, Brown began attending several NCBiotech networking events, where she first learned about the Industrial Fellowship Program.

Meredith Brown, Ph.D., is staying at Metabolon after her time in the Industrial Fellowship Program.

Once she completed the application process, Brown was interviewed and then hired by Metabolon, where she began managing intellectual property, a noticeable contrast to her experience in the lab.

Not long into her fellowship, Brown said, she began to understand some of the differences between industry and academia. “It’s a different way of thinking,” she said. The program focused on the business side of operations, which was a new experience for her. She also said that one of the keys to her time in the program was “learning to see the ideas as intellectual property.”

In an academic research lab, an idea might be worth pursuing or exploring for academic reasons, whereas any company will explore the ideas that hold the most commercial value.

“For a company, one of the main assets is its IP, so every effort is made to capture IP,” said Brown.

A win-win for companies, fellows

The Industrial Fellowship Program helps scientists such as Brown explore career opportunities and benefits companies with access to exciting new talent, while NCBiotech contributes the majority of salary costs.

The program allows scientists to recognize that “career opportunities for Ph.D.s are much broader than following the traditional academically oriented career path to faculty or research positions at universities,” said Kay Lawton, Ph.D., senior director of intellectual property at Metabolon.

“It allows them to discover other aspects available for using their Ph.D.,” added Lawton, who supervised Brown during her fellowship.

“We have been very happy with Meredith. She has been a very significant contributor to projects,” said Lawton.

“She’s had several patents filed,” Lawton said, adding that Brown has had the “opportunity to publish her work, and she helped with data analysis for another manuscript where she was a co-author.”

Opening doors to new opportunities

According to Brown, besides helping scientists get their “foot in the door” in industry, the program, as well as the NCBiotech networking events, help present new opportunities to participants. 

While Brown will continue to work at Metabolon, program participants that do not stay on at a company also benefit from the Industrial Fellowship Program, she said.

The experience participants gain, as well as the networking that comes with the program, help present numerous opportunities.

“Keeping this in mind, when you get to the end, you have options,” said Brown.

The NCBiotech Industrial Fellowship Program helped Brown make the transition from education to a career and helped Metabolon find a new intellectual property manager.

“It’s a very worthwhile program. It offers scientists the opportunity to test the waters in industry,” said Lawton.

Industrial Fellowship Program;NCBiotech;Metabolon
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