Distributed January 24, 2003
For Immediate Release

News Service Contact: Scott Turner

Industry and education joined in new medical clerkship at Brown

The Brown Medical School now offers fourth-year medical students a rotation at one of four Boston-area biotechnology or medical device firms.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A new Brown Medical School elective links business and medical education in unique and provocative ways.

The “Clerkship in Biotechnology” allows medical students in their fourth and final year of school to receive credit for working up to six weeks in one of four Boston-area firms that specialize in biotechnology or in designing and building medical devices.

The program addresses the ever-increasing impact of biotechnology in the practice of medicine, said its creator, fourth-year medical student Barrett Bready.

“It bridges a gap between clinical medicine, where you apply therapies, and industry, where you create and shape those therapies,” he said. Bready conceived the elective two years ago after reading about the growing number of young doctors pursuing careers in other fields. “Each company in the program will offer different learning opportunities,” he said.

The four firms are AnVil Inc., which commercializes knowledge extracted from healthcare data; Biogen Inc., discoverer and developer of drugs through genetic engineering; Boston Scientific, designer and builder of less-invasive medical devices such as catheters; and CombinatoRx Inc., a privately held pharmaceutical company focused on creating breakthrough medicines using a proprietary combination drug approach. A top-level executive at each firm has received an adjunct faculty appointment at the Brown Medical School. Each executive will mentor one medical student.

“Participation in the new elective will help provide students with an understanding of the science and business behind therapeutics, said Arthur L. Rosenthal, senior vice president and chief scientific officer at Boston Scientific. “It would produce medical students with a more balanced exposure to industry.” In recent years, relationships between pharmaceutical firms and many physicians have grown antagonistic.

By and large, “students learn little about drug or device development during medical school,” said Joanna Horobin, executive vice president and chief operating officer at CombinatoRx Inc. “Pharmaceutical companies like CombinatoRx recognize the value of listening and responding to the needs of their physician customers, and these Brown students will be better prepared to join in that important dialogue.”

The clerkship would “open bright minds to biotechnology, while infusing firms with new ideas,” said Mariska Kooijmans-Coutinho, director of clinical research at Biogen Inc. “We expect that it will also supply medical students with career-path information.”

Besides strengthening ties between Brown Medical School and industry, the clerkship will provide “free access to intellectual capital in the form of highly motivated fourth-year medical students at Brown,” Bready said.

“This clerkship represents a much more formal opportunity than in the past to learn how biotech companies work and to transfer biotech results into clinical practice,” said Donald J. Marsh, dean of medicine and biological sciences, who worked with Bready to develop, design and drive the elective through the approval process.

“This is one way for us to build and refine our scientific team, while providing an avenue for students to explore what is out in the medical community,” said Richard D. Gill, president and chief executive officer, AnVil.

For further information about the clerkship, contact: