Five Questions . . . with Joe Rogers, 2018 Vertex Fellow
“My background is very academic. After completing my Ph.D. in the UK, I went to Japan to do a post-doc and from there, applied to the Vertex Fellows program.”
1. What inspired your application to the Fellows program?
“My Ph.D. was very blue-sky, very academic research with almost no real-world applications. My post-doc was a little bit more involved in drug discovery, but then I saw the Vertex Fellows opportunity — a short program where you could become embedded in drug discovery teams — and I felt it was the right fit for what I wanted to do in the future. I didn’t know too much about Vertex beforehand, but after learning about the company and the medicines they developed, it looked like a good fit.”
2. What was the experience like?
“I’ve been taught a huge amount. When we first arrived, we experienced ‘boot camp.’ It was a very intense week, where people from all over the company came to present to us – from research and manufacturing to business development and finance. It was almost worth coming just for that – a big overview of drug discovery. And these were important people who took the time to come and speak to us! After boot camp, we were put into real Vertex projects and got to learn how it works from the inside.”
3. What was your area of focus?
“I was on a research project about a protein-folding disease, and in grad school I used to do protein biophysics looking at purified proteins in the test tube. I was amazed to be working on this project because during my Ph.D., I was thinking ‘this will never be useful for anything.’ Turns out the methods and the skills have been really useful here at Vertex.”
4. How does the Fellows program differ from other similar programs – post-docs, fellowships, or business school internships?
“The most similar program is an industry post doc, but there, the aim is to have a publication at the end. For the Vertex program, you’re put on a project that’s real and relevant to the company, and the aim isn’t to publish, so you can do some important work. And knowing the work I was doing was advancing Vertex’s research was gratifying – you want it to be reciprocal. I’m trying to learn about drug discovery but at the same time, trying to give something back to Vertex.”
5. What’s next for you?
“Before starting, I was convinced I would go down the academic track. But since I’ve been at Vertex, it changed my opinion about the biotech industry.Now, maybe I’ll continue on in the biotech sector instead.”