CBR Visits STEMCELL Technologies

Corrie BelangerBy Corrie Belanger, PhD Candidate, Hancock Lab

Recently, a lucky group of 26 PhD students and postdocs from the Centre for Blood Research (CBR) attended an all-inclusive tour of STEMCELL technologies. This event, organized by the CBR Educational Program, was a great opportunity to meet and network with various professionals and to learn what a career at STEMCELL Technologies or other similar biotech companies would look like.

Originally launched in 1993 as Terry-Fox Laboratories, STEMCELL Technologies has become the largest biotech company in Canada. They currently employ over 850 people in Vancouver alone and estimate that this number will grow to 1700 by 2020. The company has three locations in Vancouver and also employs scientists in 11 other countries around the world, including France, Australia, China, and Singapore. Globally, STEMCELL has made a name for itself by producing high quality specialty cell culture media, developing cell isolation systems, and providing accessory products for stem cell and tissue culture research.

The CBR group was welcomed at the Head Office and Research Building in Vancouver where they were introduced to a few of the company’s heads and managers, given a brief peek into the labs, and then offered a lunch and networking session with some of their representatives. Speakers included Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Booth, Marketing and Communication Publishing Manager Nicole Quinn, Global Sales Trainer Nadya Ogloff, Process Development Manager Stephen Fussey, Manufacturing Representative Beatriz Rodriguez, and Research and Development Senior Scientist Ryan Conder. This broad range of representatives demonstrates the scope and skill set required for such a large organization to succeed. Notably, the company aspires to fill their positions primarily with people possessing scientific backgrounds. Even the sales and marketing reps are expected to understand how the company’s materials are used and are thus trained to troubleshoot customer issues in any situation.

Stemcell technologies

STEMCELL tour participants from the CBR

The STEMCELL research facility comprises approximately 200 people, divided into ~20 teams, each working on their own project. Given the confidential nature of much of the work, we very much appreciated that two senior technicians could take us on a tour of the product research and development labs.

Finally, after an amazingly stimulating and informative morning of talks, we had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with several of the company representatives during a catered lunch.

The tour of STEMCELL Technologies was a great opportunity for many CBR members to learn from and make connections with successful scientists in the biotech industry. In particular, Nadya from the sales department, encouraged us all to build and enhance our scientific careers by always trying different things. You never know where any one of the experiences you encounter will lead you. If CBR members can take away one thing from this networking opportunity, it is that the biotech industry offers multiple career directions, and it is therefore important to acquire a wide range of skills during training, which will inevitably yield many more opportunities along the way.

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