Allie Hyans began her career at Celgene as an intern while she was an undergraduate biomedical engineering major at Duke University. Though she started out in the lab, she soon realized that she was more interested in working on the strategy side of the company. “I’m the type of person who’s motivated by the big picture,” she says. Now a full-time employee, Allie manages Celgene’s collaborations with biotechnology partners. She took the HMX immunology course as a way to build her knowledge and become more effective in managing drug development programs.
What motivated you to take the course?
Even in my undergraduate curriculum, being a biomedical engineer, I didn’t take an immunology-specific course. Though I was familiar with certain processes and the vocabulary was very familiar to me, the application to immunology in this level of detail was not. I took the course because I felt like I was missing a piece of the scientific puzzle by not understanding immunology.
Last year at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, I was talking to our research head of biotherapeutics, and he said he felt everyone in our industry should be an immunologist. He felt strongly that that’s how the industry was moving, so I got back from the conference, bought a used immunology textbook on Amazon, and opened it maybe twice. So when this opportunity was forwarded to me, I was definitely on board.
What elements of the course did you find most useful?
One, I think that the animations are excellent…they made things so clear. They did an excellent job of illustrating the story that goes along with the narrative. I think that was the best part of the course.
I also think the length of the videos and lessons as a whole made it really easy to follow. Because each video was only 8-10 minutes, I never got bored in any one video segment, and I felt like my knowledge would be reinforced by those little 2-3 question quizzes between each video that comprised the lesson.
The last thing that I really loved was the disease application. It’s great to go down into the cellular world and see how all this works, but it was so wonderful to see how that translates to the types of things that in industry we hear about all the time. Especially at a company that deals with immuno-oncology and inflammatory diseases; to understand how what we were learning on the micro level related on a macro scale and to our business was really helpful and interesting.
How has the course material been applicable to your work?
It’s really helpful because of the stuff we’re working on. [Sometimes] things come up like, we should do a T cell exhaustion assay – while I could, based on my undergrad education, infer what that meant, now I know exactly what T cell exhaustion is and what causes it and why an assay would be interesting in this case. I almost didn’t know how applicable it would be until after I became familiar with the concepts discussed in the course, and now they come up all the time. It’s like the Claritin commercial where everything’s hazy and then you take Claritin and all of a sudden it’s clear. I didn’t even know it was as hazy as it was and now when I hear these things it’s so obvious and clear, that for my own personal understanding it’s made a world of difference.