Alumni Profiles Series: Mudit Jain
What has your career path looked like since you graduated? How did you get into what you do now?
After my graduation, I worked with a small start-up in Silicon Valley in the area of cardiac ablation product development. I then worked with Guidant Corp (merged with Boston Scientific in 2006) in their Research & Development division focused on Cardiac Rhythm Management devices. My time at Guidant gave me valuable experience in product development; I learned what it takes to bring these devices to the market to serve clinical needs. I became very interested in “external collaboration” and innovative work. This led me to pursue a MBA at Wharton with the intent of working in business development and/or venture capital where I could leverage my deep technical and analytical training from Duke and the business concepts and learnings from Wharton. After my MBA, I was recruited by the Chief Scientific Officer at Johnson & Johnson in their Corporate Office of Science and Technology, and then worked with Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation (JJDC), which is the company’s corporate venture arm. At JJDC, I worked in multiple therapeutic areas such as cardiovascular, diabetes, spine, orthopedics, ophthalmology, women’s health, neurovascular and many others. The opportunity to join an independent venture fund led to my current role as a General Partner at Synergy Life Science Partners.
What is your favorite thing about your current career, and what has been the most surprising thing about it?
As a General Partner in a medical device focused fund, I assess new technologies that can one day have a major impact on diseases. The best part of my job is working with people who are extremely passionate and driven to bring novel therapies to market that will impact millions of patients across the globe. Additionally, it’s the multi-dimensionality of the job that I enjoy the most. Working on various therapeutic areas and problems from multiple areas in industry provides so much intellectual stimulation. There is never a dull movement! The most surprising thing about my current job is that while each venture may seem different and present its own challenges, at the core the problems are very similar. Lots of learnings from one situation are applicable and transferable across companies and ventures.
What types of experiences did you have as a graduate student that influenced your desire to enter your profession?
The multi-disciplinary approach of biomedical engineering gave me the foundation necessary to speak “multiple languages” with multiple stakeholders such as clinicians, technologists, IP, and regulatory folks. This is still very handy even today in my role as a venture capitalist. The ability to work closely with medical schools and physicians brought a deep understanding of how things work in a clinical setting and on real patients. The combination of computer modeling, pre-clinical work and clinical work really helped me to develop a more rounded perspective and understanding of various tools that are used in medical device development. The exposure I had through internships and the NSF fellowship encouraged collaboration with industry, and impacted my experience and thinking tremendously. My Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Patrick D. Wolf, encouraged my interests both within academia and industry. Through the internships I worked with pioneers in the medical device industry and had industry mentors who played a big role in my decision to pursue a career in medical devices. Those relationships continued beyond grad school and they are part of my network of advisors that I continue to reach out to when I need industry expertise and guidance. In addition to the incredible core biomedical course work and technical skills, the uncertainties and unpredictable nature of a Ph.D. program prepared me well to work with small start-ups. The start-ups also go through very similar ups and downs and uncertainties as a Ph.D. program.
Do you have any interesting projects or professional plans in the works?
Yes, I do have some very exciting projects that we are working on in the neuromodulation field. Unfortunately, I can’t talk too much about it as it is still in the stealth mode. But, needless to say, we are developing some very novel therapies using electrical stimulation for treating large unmet needs in neuro space, and I am sure we will be working with the great faculty at Duke very closely on some of these projects.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
There is no single advice that comes to mind. There have been many mentors who have provided great advice and insights that have been tremendously helpful in my career. Perhaps the most important lesson is that there is learning in everything I have done. Setbacks and failure have served as great learning moments. One of my mentors shared a quote with me from Denis Waitley: “Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” It is apt and has served me well in high-risk, early stage medical device development, where obstacles and setbacks are many.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with current graduate students at Duke?
Make the most of your time in grad school. The coursework and the thesis are demanding, but don’t forget to savor life and experiences outside of school. Be multi-disciplinary in your education as most real-world problems don’t fall into a single discipline. Make wise use of the amazing resources available at Duke. Explore career options beyond the traditional paths. There are so many innovative and new paths available for you. Reach out to alumni and hold informational interviews exploring the immense possibilities.
Last, but certainly not least – what is one of your favorite memories of Duke?
That’s a tough one. I have many great memories from my time at Duke. Like most of us from Duke, one of my favorite memories is Duke basketball. I did not realize how big college sports was in the U.S., especially Duke basketball. I was pulled into a blue-white scrimmage by my fellow classmates and, as they say, the rest is history. Along with the Blue Devils, another precious memory at Duke is when my daughter was born at Duke. She shares her birthday with Coach K. The Duke-Maryland game was on that day and my wife was not too excited about me watching the game in the delivery room…. I believe we won that game!
Ph.D. student, Biomedical Engineering
Ashley Williams is a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering. Her research focuses on developing flexible, high-density electrode arrays for minimally invasive recording in the brain.