Novartis International BioCamp 2010
Md. Tariq Hassan
Novartis International Biotechnology Leadership Camp (BioCamp) is the pioneering seminar introduced by Novartis that brings young talents from different universities around the globe closer to the biotechnology sector. Each year, the programme trains Masters and Post-Doctoral students from across the world bringing the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry closer to the young talents.
This year's seminar marked the first time International BioCamp being hosted at the state-of-the-art Novartis global headquarters in Basel, Switzerland where 60 selected students from leading international universities from 24 countries and territories took part.
The event is open to students from natural sciences and business administration fields. In May this year, Novartis (Bangladesh) invited applications from the leading universities of the country. Amongst many candidates, 9 were selected for the final round of the Novartis Local BioCamp 2010 through an analytical, brainstorming and interview session. Subsequently, the short-listed nine applicants were invited to attend a two-day camp hosted at Brac Inn Resort, Savar from July 23 to July 24. There we were divided into three groups and each group was assigned with a particular topic on which we had to work and come up with a business plan. The jury panel consisted of Mr. Ashfaque ur Rahman, Managing Director, Novartis (Bangladesh) Limited; Mr. Sarwar Ahmed, Managing Director, Syngenta Bangladesh Limited; Dr Syed Ferhat Anwar, Professor, IBA; renowned scientist Dr. Haseena Khan, and Professor Imran Rahman, Pro-VC, ULAB. After spending a sleepless night full of fun and work we presented our plans before the jury the next morning. At the end, I was really happy as the group leader of my group to be recognized as the champion group and to receive the individual winning award. Md. Shawkat Ali was the second winner from another group.
During the next month we prepared ourselves by reading lots of journal papers, learning new technologies, gathering information about pharmaceutical industries and finding out the success stories of different companies. As the days were passing by, both of us were charged up and had only one date in mind, the 28 August, the day we were to fly for Switzerland. We reached Basel at the very late hour of the night on 28.
From 29 August - 1 September, the participants and leading biotechnology experts were drawn closer to fuel further learning, discussion and interaction about global leadership, innovation and career paths in biotechnology. In the programme, the participants interacted with and learned from key Novartis scientists who lead the Novartis approach to drug discovery, also exchanged thoughts on advancing innovation. Students participated in high-level workshops and learned about breakthrough new medicines to address patients' unmet medical needs. Additionally, we received first-hand experience about starting and running a biotech company from entrepreneurs in the industry, helping us better understand trends and challenges in the biotechnology sector. Workshops and presentations were led by industry experts including Joseph Jimenez, Novartis CEO; Ann Fudge, Member of the Novartis Board of Directors; Dr. Dhavalkumar D. Patel, Head of NIBR Europe; Dr. Rino Rappuoli, Global Head of Research for Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics; Dr. Romeo Paioni, Head of Novartis Scientific and External Affairs, Novartis Pharma; Prof. Susan Gasser, Director of the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research; Prof. Francis Waldvogel, Chairman of the Novartis Venture Fund, as well as Dragan Grabulovski, Chief Scientific Officer of Covagen.
Apart from these presentations, each group was assigned with a case study. The task given was to design and develop a diagnostic tool kit that will detect Alzheimer disease at the early stage of life. The competition included preparation of a business plan by each group in order to impress the venture capitalists to invest in the proposed ideas. Since both of us were business graduates, we had little to do with drug and tool kit development but we learnt about the diseases earlier as some extensive preparatory orientation was given by Novartis (Bangladesh) Limited prior to the competition. Since the entire presentation was on the business development process, we had to lead the entire team from the very beginning in order to make them more focused on making the plan more viable for an investment. When we started interacting with the students it became clear that our education on qualitative level is at par with others, only thing is that we lacked exposure to technological advancement, lab facilities and hands on experience.
We also had the unique opportunity to visit some of the newest Novartis laboratory facilities, to know some of their processes and to meet their key people. The trip was fun for us as we had the chance to explore Basel in a short time. Amongst the places that we visited were several historic churches that date back to thousand years, the world famous Basel Zoo is really amazing, the beautiful river Rhine and several museums.
On the final day, all of us were excited about the presentation. Although all the groups worked on the same case it was really great to see the participants inspiring and challenging each other generating new idea around scientific innovation. Every group came up with a unique solution and we were spellbound by the power of their innovation. Finally, we made our presentation and in the end, the jury selected one of the eight groups as the winning group. My group was amongst the top three groups according to the participants' feedback and I was personally acclaimed by the jury members as I addressed the risk issue of our business in a unique manner. I felt very joyous not only because of the fact that my contribution was recognized but also because I am a Bangladeshi who received such a distinction at the highest level of excellence.
We are grateful to Novartis Bangladesh Limited for giving us such a lifetime opportunity and the team who worked hard to make the BioCamp successful. I must name few special people from Novartis and IBA who has made this event more charming and memorable for me. Thank you Ashfaque sir, Mekhola apu, Nakib bhai, Shumon bhai, Tahzeeb bhai and Shagor bhai for their efforts and advice and ofcourse Rasna apu for all her last minute advice and ofcourse for the khichuri (I had rice after five days during my stay in Switzerland and that also only at Rasna apu's place!).
One has to admit that more and more participation in such an event will enable our students to gain more knowledge and expertise and boost up their confidence so that they can excel in their academic and professional life. I hope this year's success story along with previous ones will help them keep the door open for more of our young minds to have similar exposures in the days to come. I will be happier to see other corporate bodies taking similar steps so that our brightest young minds can get the exposure in such big international events and uphold our red-green flag in the near future.
The writer is a student of MBA at IBA and welcome feedback at email@example.com