Event Reports

Biotech Expo and Conference 2016

Sophia Peng - Thursday, February 25, 2016

Cody Lo, Feb 25, 2016.

On Feburary 23rd, the SBN hosted their 15th annual “Biotech Expo and Conference.” This is one of the largest events hosted by the SBN and is a personal favourite amongst many mentors and members. What makes the SBN Biotech Expo unique is its abundant learning opportunities for students in a variety of areas. The networking reception allows for both our students and mentors to establish meaningful one-on-one connections that may help students gain insight into their next career steps or make an essential connection for landing a job after graduation. Over 30 companies were represented amongst the mentors present at our networking reception! For long-time SBN members and mentors, the networking reception also allows one to catch up with old friends and reconnect in a way that may not otherwise be possible with everyone’s jam packed schedules. The networking reception also included exhibitors from some of BC’s most prominent biotech companies such as: Amgen, BC Bioenergy, CDRD, Genentech, GenomeDx Biosciences, Precision Nanosystems, SignalChem, and STEMCELL Technologies. The exhibitors were available to connect with students to tell them a bit more about their organizations and potential position openings. For example, STEMCELL handed out hiring information for over 20 position directly related to our member population! Academic departments such as UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences was also present and was able to offer valuable information to students looking to pursue advanced degrees or research positions.

Following the networking reception, there was a series of five inspiring talks given by leaders in the biotech industry on a variety of topics related to their expertise. Our keynote presentation was delivered by Karimah Es Sabar, CEO and President of CDRD. Karimah discussed her journey to the “business” side of science following her experiences as a bench top researcher. Starting from an entry level professional in a biotech company, her story highlights the importance of truly “being a sponge” and trying to learn as much as you can from each opportunity you are presented. Karimah put it nicely: “we are only limited by the limitations we place on ourselves”. Carl Hansen, CEO and President of Abcellera, also gave a talk about how starting a company is like raising a child – all of them are different. Early on in his talk, Carl half-jokingly highlighted that one of the distinctions with his company is that there were profitable early on in its development, something he claims “almost never happens in biotech.” Carl’s comments definitely got some good chuckles out of the crowd. Dr. Martin Dawes, Head of Family Practice at UBC, gave an inspiring talk about his professional journey and current ventures in Personalized Medicine. When running a company, he stressed the importance of having enthusiasm and a willingness to collaborate with others. Michael Bidu, CEO of Interface Health, also discussed his views on the entrepreneurial spirit and put it nicely when he said: “Entrepreneurs are the misfits, the crazy ones, the dreamers.” Michael also stressed the importance of assembling ones “dream team” when starting a company and making sure those that you bring on are as heavily vested in the work as you are. The final talk of the evening was from Nina Bagri, the National Sales Manager of STEMCELL Technologies. Nina gave a very touching talk where she discussed some of her personal tribulations over the course of her career and highlighted the fact that the linear career path we imagine for ourselves is almost never nearly as straight forward.

Overall, the SBN Biotech Expo was a huge success and provided an amazing platform for BC’s leaders in biotech to share their stories with students and facilitate connections amongst the biotech community to foster continued growth of BC’s biotech industry for years to come.

[ SBN would not be possible without its generous sponsors ]