Andrew MacIsaac is a bridge builder. Or a building developer. Kind of a puzzle solver, too. He switches between metaphors when we talk, but the point is he brings people from separate fields together to bring life-saving drugs “from the research bench to the patient’s bedside.”
In 2018, with a couple academics, MacIsaac created Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API), a hub that joins the separate tracks of business and medical research and has grown into a province-wide network that not only helps save lives, but also diversifies Alberta’s economy.
As an assistant dean at the University of Alberta, he’d watch MBAs work with life-science students who’d done great medical research or made great discoveries, only to fizzle out when they tried to turn their work into practical companies.
“And the answer I saw to that was the lack of teams of scientists behind the person who made the initial discovery that were needed to make these ideas successful.”
Back to the building metaphor. “Building a life sciences company is the same thing as building a large complex office tower,” MacIsaac explains. “You can have an architect who might be great at rendering a tower, but that architect isn’t a structural engineer, they’re not a general contractor, they’re not a person who knows how to operate the excavator, they’re not a person who is able to develop the land around it.”
MacIsaac says “we probably train about 3,000 students in the Edmonton metro region on computer-related technology, and that’s great. But we train tens of thousands of students in the life sciences. And so my thought is, where are these people going to go as they graduate? How are we going to leverage the expertise?”