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California

Evelyne Jardin

Dominique Blanchard went on a postdoc in a biotech company. In the course of seven years, he worked in three companies in the San Francisco Bay area.

I arrived at DNAX-Schering-Plough Biopharma after answering an ad published in Nature. I was able to work in a company with a J1 visa, a rare thing indeed. DNAX had 240 people of 40 different nationalities, many of whom didn't speak English very well, like me. There was a fabulous atmosphere with a high degree of innovation driven by the postdocs (a third of the company's staff). I stayed there for three years with a reorientation of my postdoc in 2001 because DNAX had to focalize on developing therapeutic molecules. As a result, I switched from research to development. When my contract terminated, I looked at the opportunities in France but with nothing concrete on the horizon, I decided to take advantage of the offers I was made in the San Francisco area. I joined Excelis (500 people) where I was able to manage projects way upstream, until the clinical trial phase. Then I went over to Genentech which operated without any real sense of project management, a sort of suggestion box organization with a Darwinian project selection process. The place was teeming with ideas but sometimes kind of a mess, yet incredibly stimulating.

In seven years of career experience in the United States, I was confronted with different methods for advancing a molecule into clinical trials. I don't think one is any better than the other, each is adapted to a structure, a history and the human resources available.
One enormous advantage is that in California, you can work in very open-minded multicultural teams and take on a lot of responsibility very early on. Hierarchy isn't entirely absent but it's very soft and interpersonal communication goes from the bottom to the top of the organization chart. In France, things are much more compartmentalized and sometimes that slows down project advancement.
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