In today’s life, your ability to pivot and to embrace new projects is key. You are actually expected to change employment on a 3 to 5-year cycle in the current job market. These pivots can happen between academic positions, between academia and industry, and between non-academic jobs. This week, we’ll be hearing from Simon Moore, whose stellar academic career has led him into a successful and fulfilling position in the pharmaceutical industry, where the scientific acumen he accrued throughout his academic carreer is put to use and challenged to its full extent.

During both graduate studies at McGill University (Montreal, Canada) and postdoctoral studies at Columbia University (NYC), Simon examined fundamental topics of neural regeneration with the sole focus of securing a tenure-track academic research position. However, despite a very respectable publication record that included a first authorship in Science, a sought-after NIH transition grant (K99) and interviewing at over a dozen outstanding departments, nothing materialized. He then shifted his focus to industry and made the leap to a small biotech called InVivo Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA. They were developing treatments for spinal cord injury. It ended up being an outstanding experience where Simon learned about industry R&D practices, FDA communications and the diverse professionals required to develop complex therapies. Unfortunately, after about 4 years the lead clinical program ran into trouble and the entire R&D department was let go. He then joined Novellus (also in Cambridge, MA) to learn about and develop in vivo gene editing therapies. After about 8 months, he was approached by Rocket Pharmaceuticals (NYC) with an outstanding opportunity to help them bring gene therapies programs to the clinic. There, he contributed to the successful clinical entry (IND clearance) of two gene therapies to treat serious genetic diseases affecting young children. Simon recently joined Takeda’s Global Gene Therapy Research department in Cambridge, MA, where he now benefits of an outstanding and well-supported group, several gene therapy programs at various stages of development and the vast resources of a large pharmaceutical company.  

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How a coop undergrad can help you gain industry experience early on
  • The importance of a social network and of extracurricular activities during grad school
  • Leveraging your experience in research when preparing for an interview in industry
  • Defining criteria that are the most important for you when choosing a PI for your graduate studies
  • Transitioning from postdoc to industry for foreign researchers (immigration hurdles)
  • How to approach someone for an informational interview
  • The day to day of an industry position for a PhD

Simon’s pearls of wisdom:

“Being a PhD, you forget how few PhDs there are in the world. I think I saw a statistic that 2% of the population of the US has a PhD. You’re very unique, and you can forget about that when you’re surrounded by PhDs.”

“The other thing you have to learn is to just drop projects. In industry, if something’s not working, or a project’s not going, the quicker you can figure that out and drop it… And it’s hard, because you’ve invested two or three years, and you’re like “ no – we’ve got to pivot, we’ve got to move on from this, and now.”

“Although I entered industry reluctantly, I am very happy how it turned out. The best career advice I can give is to treat everyone with respect, put in the work to do your job properly and keep re-evaluating where you want your career to go – it will never stop changing.”

Simon’s links: LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/SimonWayneMoore; Kennedy Lab: KennedyLabMcGill.com; Langer lab: LangerLab.mit.eduTakeda.com

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