WINSTON-SALEM, NC—Medical, pharmaceutical, law and business students from across the country merged their diverse backgrounds and experiences in a weekend of education, networking and competition at the Wake Forest University Schools of Business Biotechnology Conference.
The conference included a case competition in which eight graduate student teams from Duke University, University of California Berkeley, University of California Los Angeles, Harvard Business School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Texas, University of Virginia and Wake Forest University were challenged with developing a corporate strategy for Targacept, Inc., in order to capture the most value for their shareholders.
Targacept is a mid-size pharmaceutical company developing a new class of drugs for the treatment of multiple diseases and disorders of the nervous system.
The weekend began on Friday, Feb. 18, with a keynote address by William Hawkins, CEO and chairman of Medtronic, Inc. Medtronic is a medical technology company with more than 43,000 employees in 120 different countries. Hawkins said the company’s mission is to alleviate pain, restore health and to extend life. “Every four seconds, someone, somewhere, has their life improved as a direct result of a Medtronic product. That translates to more than seven million patients a year.”
The biotechnology industry is a “unique American success story,” according to Hawkins, because it saves and improves human lives while contributing to our nation’s economic health.
Following Hawkins’ address, Justin Catanoso, executive editor at the Business Journal, moderated a panel discussion titled “New Strategies to Discovering and Developing Biotechnology.” The panelists included Jeffrey P. Brennan, Chief Business Officer and Senior Vice President of Business and Commercial Development at Targacept; John D. McConnell, M.D., CEO of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (WFUBMC); Jeff Schmitt, Ph.D., Innovation and Entrepreneurship Director at WFUBMC; and Jeff Williamson, M.D., Program Director, Sticht Center on Aging at WFUBMC.
The panel discussion focused on the medical and pharmaceutical industries, their opportunities for innovation, the challenges they face, and the interplay between the industries and academics to accomplish both science and business goals.
“Our end purpose is the patient. No one has enough talent or unique expertise to really crack all of these problems,” said McConnell. “I think both the universities and the corporations of the future are going to be those who have the best collaborations.”
Following an intense day of case presentations on Feb. 19, the student teams were invited to tour Targacept.
“It’s a first-class facility so it was just fascinating to be able to come and see it,” said Mark Stillwell (MBA ’11). “Biotech is a very interesting and dynamic industry. There’s a lot of technology and innovation management strategy that goes into it, so there are opportunities where someone with an MBA can add value.”
Saturday evening events included a reception where President and CEO of Targacept, J. Donald deBethizy, Ph.D., presented awards to the winning teams. He said that the feedback he received from the judges about all of the teams’ presentations was that they were of the same quality as any analysis Targacept had received from previous consultants.
“It’s amazing the amount of skill and development that you all already have in your careers,” said deBethizy. “If you have good ideas, work hard, allow yourself to bring diversity of thinking around you, and you embrace and integrate it to get a collective view of where to go, then nothing can stop you.”
deBethizy presented University of Texas at Austin with the first place prize of $10,000. Massachusetts Institute of Technology came in second place with a $5000 prize, followed by University of California, Berkeley, who placed third, taking home a $2000 prize.
Sponsors of the 2011 Biotechnology Conference and Case Competition were:
Aetna, Inc., Benefit Advocates, Cornerstone Health Care, Moses Cone Health System, North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Novant Health, Premier, Inc., Targacept, Inc., TransEnterix, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
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