Changing Career Pathways for College of Chemistry
The Effect of Biotech and Silicon Valley (continued)
Alumni Profile: Tom Woiwode
Tom Woiwode (B.S. '93, Chemistry) had the next few years planned out he'd finish his Ph.D. at Stanford in June of 2000 and then take some time off for a surfing adventure before settling into a prized post-doctoral position at UCSF, for which he had been awarded a very prestigious fellowship.
But then Mark Gallop (Postdoc '89), a founder of a new biotech company called XenoPort, sent a fax to Woiwode's Ph.D. advisor touting the strengths of XenoPort and mentioning that they were looking for talented candidates. "I went to the interview mainly to inform myself of what was out there," remembers Woiwode. "I was very excited about my post-doc project. However, I quickly realized that the opportunity with XenoPort was too great. The three company founders have a proven track record and I knew that aligning myself with them would get my career off to a great start."
XenoPort is working on the very science Woiwode was interested in-how to improve drug delivery. "Here was the chance to do cutting-edge biological research in an almost academic environment while at the same time getting in on the ground floor at a promising start-up with a great opportunity to learn and advance. I just couldn't say no to that kind of opportunity," he says.
It was the kind of opportunity Woiwode didn't expect to find until after he had completed a post-doc in a biological field. "In most biotech companies," he explains, "the chemists make new compounds and the biologists then figure out what the compound does, so having expertise in both fields would serve me well."
Day-to-day, Woiwode spends a lot of his time at the bench.
"There's a lot of science that needs to be worked out and understood about
drug absorption, and I have my hands full here," he says. "We are
working very hard. And it's really a fun environment: the people at XenoPort
are great, very creative, and the company is well-funded, which allows me freedom
in my research."
His long-term goals are to remain in industry, but to perhaps move into business development issues in biotech. "I'm really lucky to have this chance. The research is interesting and I'm also getting exposure to how a company works, which may serve me well in the future."
Woiwode's advice for other chemists looking to leap into biotech?
"Definitely follow your interests. In this industry, having a technical
background is really key for success."
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