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President Coley talks with industry leaders about biotechnology education and careers




​​​​​​​​​​​​​In her new role as the Chair of the CSUPERB Presidents' Commission, Dr. Soraya Coley​, the President of Cal Poly Pomona, is focused on fostering strategic collaborations and partnerships to move the biotechnology field forward. 

CSUPERB embraces the concept that the biotechnology industry is an ecosystem. We know that researchers and industry professionals at universities, national laboratories, hospitals, big and small companies, investment capital, and regulatory agencies all have a role to play in the biotechnology ecosystem here in California. Together these integrated organizations push research-based knowledge forward and find ways to heal, feed, protect, and fuel our world 

President Coley thought the 31st annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium would offer a great opportunity to learn more about the connections between biotech companies and CSU campuses. She invited two engaging biotechnology leaders, Clifford Samuel (Gilead Biosciences) and Dina Lozofsky (Biocom Los Angeles), to participate in a "fireside chat" to kick off the conference. We all hoped the fireside chat would highlight the disciplinary, research-based, organizational, and talent diversity found across the biotechnology ecosystem.

It was a terrific conversation! We now have the video available online (linked here)​ so that CSUPERB community members who were not at the Symposium in January can learn from it too. We think the points made and the wisdom shared will be timely for years to come, so we're going to keep it prominently featured here at the CSUPERB website.

CSU faculty mentors, administrators, grant proposal writers, and especially students interested in careers at biotech companies, will learn about this research-based industry by listening in on the wide-ranging conversation. The panel’s commentary about hiring for interdisciplinary, fast-paced teams and the difficulty in finding quality assurance and regulatory expertise echo conversations we've had with biotech employers for over a decade now. 

Here are some of the key points made during President Coley's Fireside Chat (with approximate times in the 55-minute video​):

6:50 min: President Coley’s introductory remarks
11:05 min - “I think it’s very important the way the two of you have framed the fact that university research students, faculty, are a part of industry.”
17:33 min.: “…you have to have the technical base or you can’t get anywhere. [Graduates] who have some of the soft skills or are adaptable or have some sort of hybrid background are highly prized because they can put them right into a team and expect them to work.”
20:24 min.: “…understand and realize that things will change rapidly and that it’s going to be cutting edge. But it goes to say that first you should hone your depth and breadth of skills in what you’re doing right now…”
33:50 min.: “You know, Dr. Jill Adler-Moore (Cal Poly Pomona), who’s in the audience, she developed a fascinating piece of technology using amphotericin B and putting it in a liposome. I was reading her bio recently and when she started [there were] very few women. You have a ton of women now…but where are they in leadership? So it’s good to have a number, but how do we get the number to transcend further up. And that goes for not just women but people of African descent, people of color.”
48:20 min.: “So what I would say for the university is to stay the course with the slow and steady while recognizing that…once you switch gears and you move from university to industry, the pace will be faster. And I think what industry is looking for is your solid, rooted academic self. They might you want it to dial it up but it’s better to dial up someone who is an expert in their craft than someone who learned everything quickly and really doesn’t know much.”