Novartis: International Biotechnology Leadership Camp

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM


Just prior to the start of the fall term, ESTEEM student Jack O'Meara flew to Sitzerland to attend Novartis: International Biotechnology Leadership Camp.  Below are his reflections from this incredible experience.

The Event

I recently had the pleasure of travelling to Basel, Switzerland, to attend the Novartis International Biotechnology Leadership Camp (BioCamp). BioCamp is a pioneering weeklong event that brings the biotechnology industry closer to selected top students from science, information technology and business universities from around the world.

The program is designed to help students understand trends and challenges in the biotechnology and life science sectors, interact with Novartis scientists and executives who lead the company's approach to drug development, as well as gain first-hand experience about starting and running a biotech company.

Workshops and presentations were led by industry experts including Joseph Jimenez, Novartis CEO; Dr. Dhavalkumar D. Patel, Head of NIBR Basel and Global ATI; Gesa Pellier, and Prof. Kurt Wüthrich, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, among others.

The Sponsor and Selection Process

Biocamp in Switzerland

Novartis International AG is a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in Basel, ranking number one in sales (57.9 billion US$) among the world-wide industry in 2013. In July 2015, Novartis had a market-cap of around $280 billion making it the largest healthcare company by this metric. Novartis sponsored the travel, accommodation and dining of 70 selected students from over 25 different countries. I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of two student representatives for Ireland.

The selection process began with an extensive online application, from here 20 students, ranging from undergraduate to doctoral level, were invited to Dublin for a day of presentations, case-work and team building exercises. Months later I received the exciting news inviting me to attend BioCamp 2015.


Alongside a series of invigorating workshops was a two-day case challenge. The challenge involved assuming the role of researcher who has stumbled upon a potentially efficacious cancer therapy, and asked us to both develop and implement a strategy for new product launch.  Teams of eight strategized and collaborated over a couple of sleepless nights, before having the opportunity to pitch to members of the Novartis Venture Fund; a $1 Billion Fund. This was a phenomenal experience.

The 70 students which made up BioCamp represented over 25 different countries, with a variety of backgrounds, ages, cultures, and academic degree levels. The most exciting aspect of the event was the opportunity to collaborate with such a diverse group of distinguished academics – one of the participants was coincidentally on the cover of Nature that week! My own team comprised of engineers, scientists and doctors from universities such as Harvard, Tokyo University, MIT and ETH Zurich.

To celebrate and solidify the education and relationships made over the course of the event, on the last night a group of students, each representing a different continent, took a dip in the Rhein. Floating through Basel, with the sky and stars alight was a fantastic way to finish off what was a phenomenal professional experience, in a somewhat less professional manor.