Written by: Bassem Toeama
2017-2018 Year-End Review: The Industry Team Case Study
Today, we celebrate the Life Sciences Career Development Society’s (LSCDS) 17th birthday. In recognition of the pioneering work that LSCDS has done in bridging the gap between academia and the life sciences industry, we bring to you a highlight of our work, the Year-End Review of one of our successful programs: the Industry Team Case Study (ITCS).
The ITCS program is designed to provide an active-learning and professional skill-building experience to trainees via a four month long, trainee-directed, collaborative project under the guidance of an industry facilitator. By engaging in the ITCS, trainees build their professional network, learn the expectations of an industry position, and deliver projects that can supplement their job applications. “The ITCS Project has provided an excellent opportunity to learn of different roles in the pharmaceutical industry and gain experience in a simulated project,” testifies one trainee. “ITCS goes beyond single event engagements where the discussion on industry roles is surface level, consequently leading to a poor understanding of industry positions; as well as excels in contrast to other mentorship opportunities where no project is being pursued,” another trainee stated, highlighting the value of the ITCS program. “My ITCS 2018 experience was a crucial factor in how I landed a job that I wanted after graduate school,” said one of the trainees who succeeded in securing a job focused on market analysis and opportunity assessment after participating in the 2017-2018 ITCS. They continued, “Unlike classroom lectures, ITCS offers a first-hand glimpse into the healthcare industry from working professionals; a perspective that can’t be learned from a textbook. These insights enabled me to be comfortable in discussing various aspects of market access during my job interview”.
The ITCS program is organized as follows:
- At the beginning of the year, prospective participants of the program are invited to attend an information session, where industry facilitators describe their roles and potential case study topics.
- After the information session, the online application process begins.
- Trainees admitted to the program are matched with other trainees on a team and paired with and an industry facilitator according to their interests.
- Over the next few months, teams work through industry-relevant projects and decide on the research methods and resources to apply.
- Halfway through the program, teams deliver a 5-minute pitch to other teams and facilitators, summarizing their progress and next steps.
- At the end of the four-month program, teams present their learning outcomes in a public showcase to other ITCS participants, industry professionals, and members of the life sciences community.
2017-2018 ITCS Program Year-End Review
This year, the ITCS was one of the most sought-after programs offered by the LSCDS. The initial information session was a sold-out event, with 120 participants in attendance. The ITCS program was particularly popular among MSc and higher-year PhD students. After a rigorous selection process, the ITCS was comprised of 10 four-member teams.
The 2017-2018 applications’ analysis revealed that the ITCS applicants’ areas of study spanned multiple disciplines. The most represented departments were Molecular Genetics, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Laboratory Medicine and Pathology.
The 2017-2018 ITCS Year-End survey revealed that ITCS delivered significant impact. Over 85% of responding trainees, undergoing job recruitment, believed that ITCS strengthened their job applications and enabled them to pass interviews and receive job offers. Facilitators derived significant value as well. ITCS helped build on their leadership and mentorship experience and provided them with an opportunity to network and give back to the academic community.
Some of the team projects for the 2018 cycle are highlighted below. While 10 teams covered different subject areas and diverse stages of product development, we are highlighting the three projects that are focused on regulatory and medical affairs in the areas of hematological malignancies, medical cannabis and immunology.
Project: Positioning a novel CAR-T therapy for “Priority Review” by Health Canada
- Functional area: Regulatory Affairs
- Therapeutic area: Oncology
- Industry Facilitator: Mathieu Jacob (Senior Associate, Regulatory Affairs)
- Objectives: Prepare a “Priority Review” request for a new oncology drug
- Background: Health Canada offers an accelerated approval pathway “Priority Review” for new drugs that treat serious, life-threatening or severely debilitating conditions. To qualify, the supporting clinical trial data package must be positioned to demonstrate superiority over existing therapies in the Canadian market, in an area of high unmet medical need.
- Learning Outcomes:
- Know and understand the role of Regulatory Affairs in the pharmaceutical industry.
- Know and understand how clinical data are positioned to secure priority status with Health Canada and expedite the approval process.
Project: Developing regulatory framework for cannabis-infused edibles
- Functional area: Regulatory Affairs
- Therapeutic area: Medical Cannabis
- Industry Facilitator: Mandy Lo (Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate) and Christina Wehrle (Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate)
- Objectives: Exploring the regulatory landscape of recreational cannabis in the U.S. jurisdictions and cannabis for medical use in the Canadian regulations.
- Background: The laws and regulations pertaining to the marijuana-infused edibles haven’t been released by the federal government. Other stakeholders such as provinces and local municipalities have authority to enforce certain regulations on businesses including licensing and zoning.
- Learning Outcomes:
- Represent a Canadian public health advisory organization proposing a regulatory framework for marijuana-infused edibles.
- Create a supplementary document that highlights key messages to be included in Canadian public health education campaigns pertaining to marijuana-infused edibles.
Project: Developing medical affairs and KOL engagement plans for Cosentyx in psoriatic arthritis
- Functional area: Medical Affairs
- Therapeutic area: Immunology
- Industry Facilitator: Dennis Wagner (Medical Advisor)
- Objectives: Learning the role of medical affairs in drug launch and the role of key opinion leaders in developing and delivering a robust medical affairs plan.
- Background: Secukinumab (Cosentyx) is an anti-IL-17A monoclonal antibody used for treatment of psoriatic arthritis.
- Learning Outcomes:
- Develop a medical affairs plan that address gaps in the market and support the ongoing launch of Cosentyx in Canada.
- Develop tactics to engage Canadian key opinion leaders in the ongoing clinical trials of Cosentyx.
- Experience the dynamic nature of Medical Affairs in its leadership and cross-functional support of the Regulatory, Marketing, and Market Access departments.
ITCS is hosted by LSCDS and industry professionals from the Science Career Impact Project (SCIP), a volunteer organization started by University of Toronto alumni with a mission to deliver transformational experiences to science trainees seeking careers in industry. The fourth round of ITCS will run in 2018-2019. ITCS aims to engage graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from the University of Toronto and its affiliated research institutes. A typical ITCS project focuses on a business or a policy challenge, which trainees investigate under the guidance of an industry facilitator. Trainees deliver a proposal that is intended to persuade their audience to implement the proposed recommendations as a new strategy.
 The LSCDS and ITCS receive support from the Faculty of Medicine and the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto.