From working in the lab of Dr. David Williams, to starting up his own consulting firm, and finally reaching management positions at Sanofi Pasteur in Toronto, immunology alumnus Dr. Daniel Chapman recently gave us an update on his post-PhD life. Daniel successfully defended his thesis on identifying targets involved in the degradation of major histocompatibility complex class I molecules in 2016. Just one year later, he had the opportunity to begin working in the Manufacturing Technology Department at Sanofi Pasteur as a Manager and Adjuvant and Adsorption Subject Matter Expert (SME). Daniel credits his time with the department, and his experience with consulting, for helping him grow his interest and passion for scientific industry. 

Nearing the end of his PhD, Daniel knew he wanted to make the transition into industry. His first foray into industry came when he was offered a part-time position at a consulting company that thankfully he was able to incorporate into his busy schedule. This opportunity incentivized Daniel to start his own consultancy company. While he was wrapping up his thesis, he built a website and worked part-time for clients in academia and small biotechnology companies. Daniel describes it as a process he enjoyed and so he decided to pursue it, all the while preparing to defend and sending out job applications. The hard work paid off, two weeks before defending his thesis, Daniel was hired by Brevitas Consulting, Inc. as a consultant. Brevitas provides scientific consulting services for the pharmaceutical, chemical, and food and beverage industries. His very first client was Sanofi Pasteur, a connection that would prove very fruitful down the line.

Daniel describes the initial transition from academia, with its culture of independent work and abstract research of fundamental scientific questions, to the more focused science of industry at Brevitas, as an adjustment. The environment at Brevitas had different demands and was much more fast-paced than academia. While still scientifically oriented, the research now focused more on concrete questions, which always included a rationale and purpose. Currently, Daniel works at Sanofi Pasteur in the Manufacturing Technology Department. Moving from Brevitas to Sanofi felt like a smoother transition, but the move came with its own set of challenges, such as becoming accustomed to working at much larger scales with higher responsibility, especially financially.

At Sanofi Pasteur, Daniel works as a Manager and Subject Matter Expert. He describes his current role as having two parts. On one hand, he provides support for industrial affairs by trending and analyzing data, as well as assessing the impact of changes being made at the product or material manufacturing level. He also advises on process improvements, brings in new technology and equipment, and communicates with regulators during inspections. The other half of Daniel’s job involves working as a project technical lead to improve the manufacturing process at a larger and more long-term scale. This includes designing, fabricating, and testing new technology, changing the manufacturing procedures, all while leading a team, setting schedules, and estimating costs. When asked what his typical workday is like, Daniel describes it as “swinging wildly depending on the day or week”, and notes that working at the manufacturing scale typically involves five litre test tubes. It is never boring, and there are always new challenges and surprises. Large components of his work involve scientific communication and time management skills. Networking and conferences continue to be a part of his work, but now with a focus on the pharmaceutical industry. Daniel hopes to build his experience in the industry and take on more leadership roles with time.

Thinking back to his time in the Department of Immunology, he credits taking the Graduate Professional Development course with Dr. Nana Lee, and courses on the pharmaceutical industry, for having helped to prepare him for his current career. The latter courses were particularly useful in learning pharmaceutical jargon, which came in handy during job interviews. He also notes that some of the skills that he acquired during graduate school, such as public speaking and scientific writing, have been quite valuable. When asked what he wished he had done more of during graduate school, his answer is clear: networking. He particularly emphasizes building more one-on-one relationships, especially with people in job positions that you may be interested in, such as industry or consulting. While formal networking events may be a good starting point, they are larger and more impersonal. He recommends reaching out to former graduate students who have gone into industry and taking advantage of networking with fellow students during graduate school. In terms of what he would change about the graduate program, he suggests incorporating a project management course, which would teach students how to effectively manage a research project, something every graduate student is expected to learn over time with very little training. Daniel notes that he has continuously applied his project management skills that he learned as a graduate student throughout his his career in industry. To any students who may be interested in pursuing a career in pharmaceutical industry, Daniel recommends utilizing the many resources available to immunology graduate students, such as frequent networking opportunities, access to professional development courses and mentors, and the many connections — both faculty and student-based, that our department has to science industry.

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