Stories of Medical Innovation

Biotechnology Case Competition Spurs Diverse Ways of Seeing Business

Dipen Vyas is a good example of the kind of student the annual Biotechnology Conference and Case Competition aims to engage.

Last year, as a fourth-year PhD student in the Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology & Pharmacology, Vyas was a member of Wake Forest University’s team in the competition, a national event in which teams of students from different disciplines compete to devise innovative solutions to real-world business problems. Wake Forest Innovations and Wake Forest University School of Business sponsor the event, which is designed to introduce students to the concept of innovation and teamwork critical in the 21st century biotechnology industry.

After being part of Wake Forest’s team—creating a business strategy to penetrate several global markets for a specific class of medical devices—Vyas decided to pursue his MBA in addition to his PhD. He hopes to complete his dual degree in May 2015. He’s volunteering to help at this year’s event.

“You learn about how teams work in the real world with products,” Vyas says. “Obviously I do love research, but I want to help in the management side as to how we can make the research and development process better so we are ready for the market. Some of these things really came together for me in the competition.”

Boston Scientific Lead Sponsor for 2014 Case Competition

The Case Competition marks its fifth year in 2014, and for the second consecutive year, the lead sponsor is Boston Scientific, a company devoted to creative medical solutions to improve health in areas including heart, digestive, pulmonary, vascular, urological, women’s health and chronic pain.

The diversity of talent among the competing schools—last year’s competition was won by a team from Johns Hopkins University; the Wake Forest team finished second—means students bring different perspectives and strengths to the competition.

Analyzing Information, Devising Strategy

Each team must develop a cohesive plan for growth, marketing and pricing strategies, financial projections and other data to offer to Boston Scientific.

The student teams tend to analyze the problems, assign specific tasks to members and then reconvene to put it all together for a 15-minute presentation on the second day of the competition.

The students have monetary motivation—first place is worth $10,000 and second place offers $5,000, along with other awards—but beyond that get a chance to network with executives from many of the sponsor companies, learn about the business aspects of biotechnology and, Vyas says, have fun.

“It really helps you to work with people who are from different backgrounds because in the real world, you’ll always be working with people from different fields who have different ways of looking at things.”

The two-day Biotechnology Conference and Case Competition opens Friday, March 21 at Wake Forest Biotech Place, with networking beginning at 12:30 pm. It will be followed with a keynote speech by Boston Scientific Executive Vice President Michael Phalen at 5 pm, followed by a panel discussion. The speech and panel discussion are free to the public.

The competition presentations will be Saturday, March 22 at Wake Forest University’s Farrell Hall from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, with a banquet and awards at Biotech Place at 7 pm.

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