A novel way to reach even more patients, clinicians, and researchers is to take your endocrinology skill into the business world. Here we highlight an ENDO 2020 session that will show attendees how industry could be a viable route for researchers and physicians alike.
Last year, at ENDO 2019 in New Orleans, three entrepreneurs at different stages of their careers – Alan Schneyer, PhD, chief executive officer and co-founder of Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals in Concord, Mass.; R. Scott Struthers, PhD, chief executive officer and co-founder of Crinetics Pharmaceuticals in San Diego; and W. Lee Kraus, professor and director of the Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas – shared their experience of going the entrepreneurial route in endocrinology, of earning their graduate degrees, and entering jobs in industry.
The program was a success, and so here at the dawn of a new decade, ENDO 2020 in San Francisco will feature a program titled “Entrepreneurship and Industry in Endocrinology” during which attendees will again hear from endocrinologists who adopted entrepreneurship in order to not only further their careers, but better the lives of endocrinology patients the world over. Joining Schneyer and Kraus this year will be Kiersten Stead, PhD, managing partner, Data Collective, San Francisco, Calif., and Eydith Comenencia Ortiz, PhD, associate director, Genentech, San Francisco, Calif.
“In 2020, entrepreneurship is becoming part of the lives of every endocrinologist who is interested in advancing their field and reaching more patients, providers, and researchers,” says Stephen Hammes, MD, PhD, Louis S. Wolk Distinguished Professor of Medicine and chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., and faculty organizer of this year’s session. “Technology and social meeting are exploding and offering a myriad of new opportunities for those interested in promoting endocrine health, whether they be in private practice, industry, or academics. These opportunities extend beyond physicians — there are terrific opportunities for PhD researchers, inventors, and health administrators who want to improve endocrine care at a greater level.”
Taking a Chance
Terrific opportunities for physicians and researchers to be sure, but the fact remains that those with fresh MDs and PhDs might not think about this particular career route, or, if they are aware of it, might not think it’s the best move. “I think the biggest question that most people have that are still in academia is that is my idea worth doing and should I take a chance on this?” says Schneyer, who is presenting again this year. “And then if I decide to do it, how do I do it?”
In the old days (prior to 2020), most endocrinologists completing graduate school had academic or clinical careers in mind and might not have wanted to settle for anything less. According to Schneyer, whether these early-career endocrinologists did eventually end up in industry, they all had academic careers in mind, even as positions in those careers shrink.
“In 2020, entrepreneurship is becoming part of the lives of every endocrinologist who is interested in advancing their field and reaching more patients, providers, and researchers. These opportunities extend beyond physicians — there are terrific opportunities for PhD researchers, inventors, and health administrators who want to improve endocrine care at a greater level.” – Stephen Hammes, MD, PhD, Louis S. Wolk Distinguished Professor of Medicine, chief, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, N.Y.
But now the world has turned, and newly minted endocrinologists don’t have to be daunted by the entrepreneurial spirit anymore, especially as academic positions become more and more competitive. “Since we are all very busy, we often feel that we do not have the time or band-width to do our day jobs and also get involved in entrepreneurship,” Hammes says. “However, this is simply not true anymore. There are amazing individuals who can help us get more involved in entrepreneurship through working in teams. This allows all of us to use our particular expertise to help a team move ideas and concepts forward.”
Examining Pros & Cons
Schneyer attends entrepreneurial programs across the country, where he talks to graduate students thinking about their next steps, and he says he’s amazed at how many of this new generation of endocrinologists are actually considering going the industry route. “A lot of the people I meet in these entrepreneurial programs are people right out of school,” he says. “They’re either in graduate programs now or just finished or in a post doc. And they have come across something where they’ve discovered something that they and their mentors think has commercial potential. The mentor doesn’t want to leave the academic department, so the student or post doc becomes the protagonist for the company.”
Schneyer says he’s planning to focus his talk on the options available and the pros and cons of each decision. His view is that this younger generation of endocrinologist is correctly positioned for entrepreneurial careers in industry. They are more prone to take risks, to start the company they dreamed of, and not be locked into a tenure track. “Because you’re younger, you’re much more likely to be willing to take the risks and try it for a couple of years,” he says. “If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. You don’t have kids in college that you have to worry about and all that other stuff.”
Capitalizing on Venture Capitalists
It also won’t hurt that ENDO 2020 is being held in San Francisco, the major hub of venture capitalism in the world. “The Endocrine Society annual meeting has everything that you need,” Schneyer says. “The expo already has every major pharmaceutical company and most of the minor ones that have anything to do with endocrinology are already there. And they usually bring a sales staff, but all they have to do now is bring somebody from their external collaboration and business development group to the meeting.”
“A lot of the people I meet in these entrepreneurial programs are people right out of school. They’re either in graduate programs now or just finished or in a post doc. And they have come across something where they’ve discovered something that they and their mentors think has commercial potential. The mentor doesn’t want to leave the academic department, so the student or post doc becomes the protagonist for the company.” – Alan Schneyer, PhD, CEO and co-founder, Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals, Concord, Mass
Indeed, that is the aim of this session, not only to learn from the experts but to start drafting or finalizing career plans once attendees have turned their tassels. “This entrepreneurship session being offered at the ENDO 2020 will provide a forum where those interested in learning more about entrepreneurship can hear from a panel of experts who have all become involved in entrepreneurship in their own unique ways and have the own interesting stories to tell,” Hammes says. “There will also be opportunities for discussion and networking; thus this session will offer attendees a great introduction in what is out there for them with regard to entrepreneurship in endocrinology.”
“My generation is going to be leaving and then they got to be replaced by somebody,” Schneyer says. “New members are going to come from somewhere and if the academic pool is shrinking, you’ve got to get them from somewhere else.”
— Bagley is the senior editor of Endocrine News. He wrote about thyroid eye disease treatments in the January issue.