Off the Beaten Path - Choosing an Alternative Career
Dr. Christopher Shepard was awarded the 2007 ASIP Experimental Pathologist-in-Training (EPIT) Merit Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the same year; he is currently the Founding Principal of Shepard&Co BioEquity based out of New York City.
The first question always asked of me by someone interested in my career path is “Why did you leave science?” That question always leaves me confused. How did people ever get the idea that I left science?
I always trace my career back to give due justice to the question. My undergraduate years were committed to biology and physics. I never wanted to go to medical school like many of my peers, who were also trying to accumulate extracurricular research hours. I became somewhat bellicose when someone (or even my family!) tried to persuade me to pursue medical school instead of a doctoral degree. Research had always felt like the right path for me, even if I wasn’t quite sure which field I wanted to pursue. I had actually already started my graduate work in statistical physics before I met the person who had the first major influence on my career, Noel Dybdal, one of the original senior scientists in the pathology group at Genentech. It was Noel who set me on the path to a doctoral degree in life sciences.
In later years, many of the achievements I had as a doctoral student were the product of excellent mentoring by my thesis advisor, Alan Wells. I loved my project, as well as the discipline needed for the scientific process. I always kept my eyes on the prize – translational medicine was always my ultimate goal, even if the bench-to-bedside horizon was beyond the reaches of a doctoral dissertation. I also became keenly aware of the “growing pains” that biotechnology was facing as a whole; I believed the problems of inefficient financing for the long and uncertain time horizons of R&D would eventually cripple the field I had grown to love. It was for this reason I decided to attend business school after a short postdoc. Making that decision allowed me to gain invaluable knowledge about cash flows in the real world – admittedly, it was almost too practical. I quickly missed the creativity of doing real science, which led me to start my own firm, specializing in biotech-specific special-situation investments.
My science background coupled with my business education now allows me to continue my pursuit of growing what initially attracted me to science – the creative freedom. At Shepard&Co BioEquity we work to develop the financial instruments that I dreamed up back in graduate school that will hopefully more efficiently manage the risks associated with biotechnology. Developing these tools has continually tested my mettle as a scientist. The grit, frustration, and triumph are all there. I could never leave it behind – science nourishes the soul.
You can visit Shepard&Co BioEquity at www.shepardbioequity.com