Richard Scheller: Moving From Academia to Industry | Summary and Q&A

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May 17, 2011
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Stanford eCorner
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Richard Scheller: Moving From Academia to Industry

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Summary

In this video, a former professor discusses his decision to leave academia and join a biotech company. He explains how his research field had reached a plateau and he wanted to pursue something different. He and his wife considered moving to Boston but ultimately decided to join a biotech company where he could apply his biological insights to disease. He talks about the challenges and learning curve he faced in transitioning from academia to the business world.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why did the professor decide to leave academia?

The professor felt that the rate of learning in his research field had plateaued and he wanted to do something different.

Q: How did the professor decide where to move?

The professor and his wife considered moving to Boston, but they realized it wouldn't be much different from their current situation. So, they decided to find somewhere that would be quite different.

Q: What motivated the professor to apply his biological insights to disease?

The professor felt that the life science endeavor as a whole had learned enough about cells and molecular biology to start thinking about diseases in mechanistic terms. He wanted to apply his biological insights to the study of diseases.

Q: How did the professor get involved with Genentech?

The professor was introduced to the CEO of Genentech, Art Levinson, through a colleague who knew he was looking for something different. He was attracted to the idea of having a boss who was a scientist and could understand his perspective.

Q: What were some of the challenges the professor faced in transitioning to the biotech company?

The professor had to quickly learn about cancer biology, immunology, and drug development, which were areas he hadn't previously specialized in. He also had to familiarize himself with business concepts and terms, such as EPS (earnings per share).

Q: How long did it take the professor to feel comfortable in the business world?

It took the professor about two years before he felt like he had a good understanding of what he was doing in the business world. He had to overcome a steep learning curve but found the experience to be fascinating.

Q: Why did the professor ultimately decide to take the leap and join the biotech company?

The professor wanted to do something different and felt it was the right time to apply his knowledge as a human experimental biologist in the context of disease. He believed that the opportunity would be personally rewarding.

Takeaways

The professor's decision to leave academia and join a biotech company was driven by his desire for new challenges and a different environment. He saw the opportunity to apply his biological insights to the study of diseases and embarked on a steep learning curve to familiarize himself with cancer biology, immunology, and drug development. Although it took time for the professor to feel comfortable in the business world, he ultimately found the experience to be personally fulfilling and valuable for his career growth.

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