Paramita Chaudhuri Basu, Director, Programs & Ecosystem Development
Tell us about your career journey.
When I was a student growing up in India, I always wanted to be in academia. After graduating summa cum laude from university and completing my PhD in biochemistry and biotechnology on a full scholarship, I moved to the University of Alberta as a postdoctoral fellow working in microbiology, genetics and biochemistry. Afterwards, I moved back to India as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Life Sciences at Presidency University, teaching microbiology, biochemistry and plant pathology. Being a lifelong learner with a passion for connecting science and business, I decided to come back to the University of Alberta for my fourth degree. While pursuing my full-time MBA, I was working full-time for a biotechnology startup and was an active member of four governance boards on campus. This gave me the opportunity to learn about the innovation ecosystem in Edmonton, make some great connections, and gain amazing mentors. After completing my degree, I joined the university as the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Manager for the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, where I led the Health Innovation Hub, a community incubator for health and life sciences companies. Earlier this year, I joined API as their Director of Programs & Ecosystem Development. My portfolio is responsible for creating and delivering programs, and supporting the life sciences and health innovation ecosystem in Edmonton and across Canada.
Why did you choose to join API?
I have followed API since the beginning of my MBA. Being purpose driven in my career path, I did my MBA to connect my deep subject matter expertise in life sciences with business. It can be challenging to bring the two worlds of science and business together, and I find myself with the unique skill set to do so: I speak both the languages of science and business, I’m passionate about connecting with people and hearing their stories, and I love to facilitate and nurture growth. My values and interests align with the values of API and what the organization does by providing innovators with the translational capacity they need to turn their ideas into commercializable products and helping companies achieve their commercialization success. I have great respect for API’s CEO, Andrew MacIsaac, and when the opportunity arose to join API’s leadership team to help build out their programming and ecosystem support, I couldn’t resist the challenge.
Tell us about your proudest career achievements and why they’re important to you.
In my non-traditional career path, there are several moments that make me proud. Not because of what I have achieved, but more because of how my work helped others. As an Assistant Professor, I worked on curriculum development for a newly-restructured and branded department. The new curriculum was innovative and practical, and was designed to prepare students to get a holistic idea about life sciences. As an MBA student, I was a student member of the General Faculties Council at the University of Alberta. Along with others, I was a part of the UofA for Tomorrow strategic transformation that proposed the College Model that the University of Alberta currently operates in. As the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Manager at the UofA, I led the rebranding for the Health Innovation Hub, which created the community incubator for health and life sciences startups in Edmonton.
What is unique about the life science and health ecosystem in Edmonton?
Edmonton has a lot to offer. One of Edmonton’s greatest strengths is its supportive ecosystem and community. Edmonton’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem is thriving, and there is a general feeling of goodwill amongst entrepreneurs that is contagious. Everyone wants to help one another and there is healthy competition.
The world is sitting up and watching this dynamic ecosystem build out. Investment is rolling into Edmonton and we are carving out a niche for ourselves. Provincial and regional municipal bodies are investing in the ecosystem and API is playing a major role in supporting local entrepreneurial companies and larger pharmaceutical players to create their product, source their talent, and take their product to market.
This is just the beginning and Edmonton has the potential to become a global source for life science innovation and commercialization.
Tell us about being a woman in STEM, how that impacted your career and your hope for the future.
I love STEM. I also love business. I am an extremely curious person and pursuing a career path in STEM helped me to feed that curiosity. I have been extremely fortunate in having some great mentors and sponsors throughout my life, including stalwart support from my family, my teachers, my co-workers, my supervisors and my friends. Just like entrepreneurs need a support system to grow and thrive, all women in STEM need a support network that allows them to do the same. Success in STEM, success in business, and generally success in life is built on a foundation of knowing yourself and giving your best self with confidence and fearlessness. We all have a role to play in amplifying and championing women in STEM.