Industrial Inroads: MBiotech program leading to impressive partnerships with industry.

Monday, November 26, 2012 - 9:38am

Carla DeMarco
car.demarco@utoronto.ca

Leigh Revers and Eva Furczon

Eva Furczon has always found innovation in healthcare business very intellectually interesting. So with this pursuit as a driving force, coupled with her passion for forging new ways to facilitate access to innovative medicines, she enrolled in the University of Toronto Mississauga’s Master of Biotechnology (MBiotech) program.

It was while earning this Master’s degree that Furczon (MBiotech 2010) established an active partnership with Professor Leigh Revers, one of the faculty members at U of T Mississauga who teaches in the program.

“As a final project toward the completion of my Masters, my team was charged with analyzing the technical and commercial feasibility of developing a biosimilar of a very successful biologic manufactured by Roche,” says Furczon, who explains that biosimilars are a copy of an approved, original biological medicine whose data protection has expired. “We worked with a small Toronto based biotechnology start-up as part of the project, and given his background, I suggested to the group that we approach Dr. Revers to be our supervisor for the project.” Revers accepted and an academic partnership was created, with the two meeting occasionally after Furczon graduated to discuss their respective, current pursuits.

Fuelled by mutual interest in subsequent entry biologics, and in maintaining their collaborative relationship, the pair’s next project surfaced when Furczon identified a gap in the literature while working in the Medical Marketing department at Roche Canada. “Eva approached me to co-author a paper with her on the then-emerging field of biosimilars,” says Revers. “We wrote two papers that were published in 2010 in the Canadian Pharmacists Journal, and this lead to my invitation to present our findings to groups leading physicians and pharmacists across Canada.”

Following the publication, Revers has been invited to present at several prIME oncology symposiums including the European Association of Hospital Pharmacists’ Conference in Milan, Italy, and to participate in two separate expert panels in Milan and Germany. (Both events can be viewed at http://www.primeoncology.org/milan2012_webcast and http://www.primeoncology.org/expertreview_biosimilars_pharm; a signup is required to view each session.)

Furczon’s career in the pharmaceutical industry began with a position at Millennium Research Group (MRG), which is a global market research company focused on medical technology markets. She joined Roche Canada in 2009 as a marketing associate and since then held various roles in marketing, medical marketing management and sales. Currently, Furczon is an International Product Manager working at Roche global headquarters in beautiful Switzerland. In her new role, she is a core member of a Global Readiness Task Force responsible for developing and implementing strategies that are critical to the sustained success of the world’s largest biotech company. She enjoys and excels working internationally with people and teams that are tasked to spot emerging trends and respond innovatively.

The Furczon-Revers relationship in the biosimilars field is perceived by Furczon as the new standard for these types of “cross-functional engagement and collaborations,” and the way forward to address healthcare-related challenges. “What began as an academic exercise evolved into a successful partnership between academia and industry, a model for how constructive the collaboration between academia, industry and government can be,” says Furczon. “It is also a glimpse at how critical such collaborations will be as, together, we confront an uncertain healthcare landscape shaped by increasing R&D costs, struggling pipelines, and the complex social, political and economic pressures on the system to do more with less. Each of us faces a paradigm shift and the need to rethink our approach to these challenges.”

Furczon has found the MBiotech program to be an invaluable resource for helping her establish significant networks in the pharmaceutical industry, while building a foundation in the skill-sets required for leadership. “The program stoked my passion for innovative medical advancement and expanding access by facilitating the relationships needed to explore it,” says Furczaon. “The opportunity to mine that passion, and my collaboration with Dr. Revers, was only possible because of the program’s commitment to building bridges between academia and industry.”

Originally published at http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/research-profile-research-news-general/industrial-inroads