Alumni Profiles Series: Adam Muzikant
Adam Muzikant is the Senior Vice President of Business Development at Flexion Therapeutics based in Boston, MA. He received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Duke in 1998. Since then, he has amassed over twenty years of experience in both the research and development and business sectors of the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals industry. His work spans a wide variety of therapeutic areas (including cardiology, ophthalmology, GI, oncology, and immunology) as well as geographic territories (including the United States, European Union, Japan, and China).
How did you progress from research-oriented Ph.D. training into business development?
My graduate training in biomedical engineering focused on cardiovascular research. During this time I studied electrical conduction in the heart. As part of my Ph.D., I participated in a program funded by the NSF Engineering Research Center, in which students worked as summer interns at various companies. I collaborated with a company in California, where I saw the research principles from my graduate thesis project being applied in the company’s project. Upon finishing my graduate thesis, I took a job with Physiome Sciences in Princeton, New Jersey. I had the opportunity to continue working on cardiovascular health on the scientific development side of the company. In total, I spent about five years in research and development. After Physiome merged with a company in Boston, I was given the opportunity to apply my scientific knowledge in business operations. The company’s business officer talked to me about the process of finding pharmaceutical partners and invited me to transition into business development.
What advice do you have for current students who plan to pursue opportunities in scientific business development?
There is still a gap today between Ph.D. training and business development. When I was in graduate school, very few labs had industry ties and there were almost no extracurricular opportunities for students interested in a business development career. Since my first job was in a small company, I had to essentially learn on the job. I spent a week learning finance and accounting at a local business school as part of the executive education program. However, I would advise current graduate students to find a way to establish connections with a company of interest either as a summer intern, while on a research rotation, or as a postdoctoral associate. You can research different labs as a way to cultivate potential collaborations with biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.
What steps have you taken in order to successfully manage projects across diseases and therapies?
Over the course of my professional career, I have managed the development of a wide array of therapies spanning cardiovascular health, oncology, and musculoskeletal pain. It is easier to expand into wider therapeutic areas once you have become immersed in one modality. After you have established your area of expertise, try to be proactive and broaden your knowledge. One way to do this is to seek out a consulting role that will allow you to work with biotechnology groups. This will facilitate your involvement with different projects and expose you to new fields and innovations.
What skills do you believe are most sought after in the biotech / pharma industry?
I interact with a diverse group of people, from those involved in early research and clinical trials in regulatory sectors as well as in manufacturing, legal, and commercial divisions. Each of these sectors has a different understanding of science and data. You need to know how to tailor your presentation of information based on your audience. It takes experience as well as specialized knowledge to be able to describe and advocate for particular technologies and treatments. My training as a scientist makes it easier to engage others and translate scientific knowledge into simplified messages.
It is essential that you excel at communicating the importance of your work to all branches of the industry. A strong publication record, both in written and oral presentation forms, is particularly beneficial. Additionally, it is important to gain some industry experience simply to learn the jargon used in pharmaceutical research. People who successfully make the transition between the academic and industry research environments usually find many career opportunities open to them.
Ph.D. student, Cell and Molecular Biology
Khairunnisa is a first-year PhD student in Pharmacology. She graduated magna cum laude from New York University Abu Dhabi as a Phi Beta Kappa scholar. At Duke, she actively investigates the intersection between G-protein coupled receptor therapeutics and neuropsychiatry in Nina Tsvetanova's research group. She is also passionate about diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity in STEM.