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Private research trust

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Private research trust

Postby Tony Derten » Mon May 14, 2018 8:37 am

I have an offer for a job with a private research trust kind of company, and would like to get an idea about career potential. This is a senior level lab based position and would involve all the latest and greatest technologies and close interactions with five different groups within the organization. The offer is very reasonable in terms of salary, and I wouldn't have thought twice about it if it was with a big(ger) company. I'm a postdoc with plenty of experience, and really eager to get out of academia. Ideally, I'd want an industry research job with solid promotion potential, but after two postdocs, I'm really open to other options as well.

With this job I'm concerned about the very private nature of the organization, and the possibility of getting sandboxed in my career. I haven't found out much about this company even after going through three interviews. They explained the job and research, but not much other than that. I can only gather that this is some sort of a hyper "wellness" club, where people pay in to get their body fluids routinely analyzed by the latest scientific equipment and based on the latest scientific findings, that have not been approved as formal tests by the FDA. Then if anything pops up, they'd be alerted to it and referred to clinics to do exploratory tests.

The interview process was also weird--it was conducted exclusively by the hiring manager, who did not even invite me to her office. I had to insist that I get to see the offices/facilities--the person interviewing me wanted to just talk in the hotel conference room. She kept on insisting it is because of the very private nature of their activities. At the end of the day, I did get to see the offices and labs and to superficially speak with a couple other people. But the whole experience felt rather odd.

I'd like to get some thoughts from experts here on whether it's advisable to take this kind of position. It could provide a very solid technical expertise and the organization appears to be small, but very well funded. That said, it is hyper-private, and it is non profit--so there are no patents and no publications. My biggest concern is that three years from now, if I decide to move elsewhere, I won't have a record of publications, patents, or even name recognition, as they are so privacy focused, they don't advertise or have much of a web site.
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Re: Private research trust

Postby PG » Mon May 14, 2018 3:52 pm

I think that it will depend a lot of the reputation that this organization has among other companies and organizations in the field.

I am also not sure that I understand what the purpose of the organization is. Is it to perform research or something else. Most organizations tend to either exist to make a profit, to provide a service (which is then usually highly visible) or to perform research (which is then usually published) but what you describe doesnt really fit into any of these categories.

Generally my advice is to be very careful with accepting a position with anyone when the interview experience or somethign else seems weird. To have only the hiring manager performing the interview is OK. We do this as well sometimes for entry level positions. Even if we always tries to have more than one person meet every candidateit is not always possible. However, they should be able to clearly state what they are doing and why.
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Re: Private research trust

Postby Tony Derten » Mon May 14, 2018 4:29 pm

PG, thanks for your response. To address something you said:

I am also not sure that I understand what the purpose of the organization is.


To be honest, me neither. And that's after three interviews. The org has essentially zero public profile, and I was told it is by design. It's privately funded, and does "advanced biomarker and personalized medicine" work and research for its funders. I did not find any publications associated with the org. That said, their lab is very well equipped and the job offer is rather generous--aside from no bonuses, stock options, or patents.
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Re: Private research trust

Postby Dick Woodward » Wed May 16, 2018 4:21 am

Tony:

I would proceed with extreme caution. Given all that you told me, if it was me in your shoes, my BS detector would be flashing red.

Best of luck,

Dick
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Re: Private research trust

Postby E.K.L. » Wed May 16, 2018 12:01 pm

Tony Derten wrote:PG, thanks for your response. To address something you said:

I am also not sure that I understand what the purpose of the organization is.


To be honest, me neither. And that's after three interviews. The org has essentially zero public profile, and I was told it is by design. It's privately funded, and does "advanced biomarker and personalized medicine" work and research for its funders. I did not find any publications associated with the org. That said, their lab is very well equipped and the job offer is rather generous--aside from no bonuses, stock options, or patents.

My guess is (keep in mind it is just a guess) that this is one of those private ventures who offer "personalized medicine" testing for a fee. While there is a lot of research and even clinical trials on adjusting the treatments based on individual genetic markers etc., there are also a lot of scams offering diagnostic testing of little clinical value to people. In my opinion, a company being this secretive about what they charge their customers for should be a red flag.
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Re: Private research trust

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed May 16, 2018 12:16 pm

Dick Woodward wrote:Tony:

I would proceed with extreme caution. Given all that you told me, if it was me in your shoes, my BS detector would be flashing red.

Best of luck,

Dick


I totally agree with Dick and EKL on this one, that the "company" sounds more than a bit weird and unless you get some good vibes from other employees, I would reconsider.

Dave
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Re: Private research trust

Postby Nate W. » Mon May 28, 2018 12:55 pm

Hi Tony,

There might be a different perspective on this "opportunity." Everyone who has commented has given you sage advice, especially in light of the secrecy. I work as an scientific analyst for a small VC firm. Recently, we spun a technology out of a large medical center and we hired the post-doc who did all the basic research for this technology. He is our chief scientist for this venture and has an equity stake in the company. I am wondering if this is the same situation in your case. Yet, they are being a bit more cloak about it than we were with our chief scientist. Maybe this could be an "opportunity."


My first question is why(how) did they approach you about this opportunity. Also, the other problem of what you said about it being in the diagnostics business concerns me. Do you really want to be in the business of testing patient samples for doctors (and doctors who own the company)? I would rather own part of the company and be in charge of developing on a new diagnostic (not testing blood samples). Professionally, I would say the diagnostics business is a lousy business to be in and not because there are not exciting research happening or a need for that research. It is a highly regulated industry and the reinbursments for new tests are terrible. This is why most VCs try to avoid diagnostics because the pay-out is much better with therapeutics. Plus, the Mayo and Myriad legal decisions make it more difficult to patent any diagnostic invention. Further, you can now sequence entire human genomes rather cheaply and quickly; so why try to monetize a new genetic test for prostate cancer? There have been several recent and colossal failures in the diagnostics business, like Theranos. It is a better investment to develop a therapeutic. If you are going to develop a diagnostics, it is better to monetize it for use in the reagent industry than to use it clinically. Just food for thought if it is a diagnostics play.


You need to ask some more thoughtful questions. Like, who are the inventors of the technology and can I see any related IP? How much is the initial round of funding? Have you secured a licensing agreement (and/or) ownership of the technology? Can I talk with the inventor or current owner of the technology? Initially, how many employees do you plan on hiring? Will you provide me with an equity stake in the company (if you are the key scientist)? How do you plan to monetize the technology and what is a the commerical market for that technology?


Start with some questions like this and if they don't open up, walk. I heard that there are some Theranos investors trying to salavage that technology privately. Curious, are you located in the Bay Area?


If this is Theranos, walk away. There is another company in San Diego that is better positioned than what is left of Theranos. Tony, you want transperancy here and straight foward answers before you commit to something like this. Look at what happen to Chief Scientist for Theranos, Ian Gibbons:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... -wife.html

https://www.fastcompany.com/3052578/the ... et-journal


PS: You might want to offer to sign a NDA (or non-disclosure) intially. This might open them up a bit.


Hope this help. Let us know what happens.
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Re: Private research trust

Postby Tony Derten » Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:48 am

Nate,

Thanks for your input. The company is not Theranos. It is a privately funded research lab, where several (very) wealthy individuals are sponsoring the research to take advantage of the latest scientific findings for their personal use. For example, if, say, there is a Nature paper next week proposing new biomarkers for breast cancer, two weeks from then, the sponsors of the company will have some five years worth of data from their weekly blood collections pertaining to this proposed marker. They also do much discovery and development research along the same lines.

As a side note, I ended up accepting the offer, and about to move to the San Fransisco area.
Last edited by Tony Derten on Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Private research trust

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:39 am

Tony,

Thanks for your post and please continue to come back and tell us what it's like to work for a unique organization like this one. You need to stay in touch with the Forum, and help out others who will run into the same questions.

Good luck in your new job!

Dave Jensen, Moderator
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Re: Private research trust

Postby Tony Derten » Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:00 am

Dave,

Thanks! Will do my best to keep in touch with the forum. I found much needed actionable advise here and really appreciate what you guys are doing.

Tony
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