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URMC / Education / Graduate Education / URBest Blog / August 2017 / Scientist to Business Executive – An Unexpected Journey

Scientist to Business Executive – An Unexpected Journey

Career Story by Michael Krupp, CEO at Xfibra Inc., previous Senior Vice President at Chugai Pharma USA, and previous Director of Licensing & Development at Pfizer Inc.

When I entered my graduate education in biochemistry at URMC I expected to pursue a career as an academic researcher teaching and doing grant supported basic science research in biomedical sciences.  I completed my Ph.D. and went off to the Department of Physiological Chemistry at Johns Hopkins for three years of postdoctoral research.  Everything I heard from my advisers and mentors pushed me to seek an appointment at a University as an Assistant Professor.  It was then that reality set in – (1) there were very few openings that were sought by many outstanding candidates and (2) opportunities in the Pharma industry were plentiful and the work was interesting.  This was my first career pivot!

My time in Industry took me from bench scientist to business development.  I started as a drug discovery scientist running screens at Pfizer in Groton, CT.  It became very clear to me then that I was not going to be happy doing “Industry science”.  My interest evolved into the development side of drug research, and I was able to become involved in collaborative research with Pfizer’s international commercial group in New York.  An opportunity to transition into the business side of Pfizer came after six years in Groton when I was able to join the Licensing and Development Division at Pfizer HQ in New York.  In that role I was able to put my scientific background to good use looking for new drug candidate opportunities from potential partners.  Fast forward six years later and I became Chief Business Officer at Chugai Pharma USA (the US subsidiary of Chugai Pharmaceutical (now a Roche company) in Japan).  This brought me more completely into the realm of business.  Each one of these pieces of my career really prepared me for what I do now.

A little more than twelve years ago, my Industry career came to a close, and I was wondering what to do with myself.  It was then that I became involved at UC San Diego to find ways to tackle two of the big issues that I had experienced during my time working in industry – (1) how to commercialize the huge investments that are being made in biomedical research at academic institutions and (2) how to educate graduate students and postdocs so that they will understand industry and technology commercialization.  Over the past ten years, I have been a mentor to faculty and students, taught courses and workshops on technology commercialization and started several companies with Faculty and/or Student inventors.  I feel very lucky to have arrived at this point in my journey.  I find what I do to be very satisfying from the viewpoint that I can help others consider options in their career journey.  Also, I can say no two days are the same, and I have no boss!

I would like to offer a couple of thoughts for you to consider: (1) scientific training teaches us to solve problems.  You are not restricted to doing scientific research, your problem-solving skills are valuable to a wide variety of careers, (2) Be open to changes.  My first boss in Industry “forced” me to rethink myself as a bench scientist, which led to an exciting career in the pharma business group, (3) Your experiences over time will be interesting and valuable to those who are starting out so be ready to share them when you can!

Good luck with your journey.  I am looking forward to speaking with you Tuesday August 22, 2:00 – 3:00 pm.


Tracey Baas | 8/15/2017

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