Each month, the BC AHSN News profiles a member of the BC AHSN team or its extended community. For our August issue, we (literally) went next door and interviewed Wendy Hurlburt, President and CEO of LifeSciences BC (LSBC). LSBC is a partner organization that promotes the leadership, investment, advocacy and promotion of British Columbia’s world-class life science community.
Wendy Hurlburt has a longstanding presence in the life sciences industry, having worked in the sector for 17 years. Most recently, she worked within the private side of the industry, holding positions within Johnson & Johnson, including global Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for medical devices in the diabetes space.
Wendy also gained senior-level experience in the not-for-profit sector, working at the Ontario Heart and Stroke Foundation as CFO and Vice-President Finance, Systems and Business Solutions.
“I’ve had positions in both not-for profit and profit side of the life sciences business, and started my career in IT, sales and marketing” she recounted in a recent interview. “It’s come full circle because you look at digital health and its recent reliance on apps, and it’s all driven by the technical side of things.”
LifeSciences BC promotes leadership, investment, advocacy and promotion of our province’s world-class life science community.
LSBC announced Wendy’s appointment as President and CEO in mid-April 2019. She had the exact requirements of research, fundraising and industry experience essential for the position; she is now keeping LSBC at the cutting edge of life sciences within a fast-changing digital landscape.
“Coming into LifeSciences BC seemed like a perfect next stage in my career as I was consciously thinking of returning to the not-for-profit sector,” she said. I really wanted to follow my passion and stay in the life sciences space. I had had interactions with LSBC before, so I was already pretty familiar with the organization.”
“I had worked with all different sectors within research, fundraising, then within the medical device side through a number of digital health initiatives,” she continued. “So that breadth of background of the sector that I was working with had me well-positioned to understand the different stakeholder groups within the life sciences sector.”
As the well-known saying goes, collaboration is key to success. Developing more opportunities for collaboration and stronger partnerships have been Wendy’s focus so far at LSBC.
“One of the things I’ve always liked about industry associations and the not-for-profit sector is the ability to collaborate with partners – and to further our collective goals together. Having done quite a bit of work in business development throughout my career, I have found that we’re all driving towards the same outcome.”
BC AHSN is one of these partners.
“In my three months in this position, [I’ve learned that] Lifesciences BC and Clinical Trials BC – and now, the larger BC AHSN organization – has had a strong history of collaboration – which is fantastic,” she noted.
“You’ve got individuals who are visionary about what BC AHSN can become. There’s an incredible opportunity in bringing all of these groups together and acting as that bridge for the academic and health science side.”
LSBC and Clinical Trials BC had a prior memorandum of understanding from which Wendy, Tom Noseworthy, Alison Orth and other senior management members are now brainstorming about further collaborations on strategic projects.
Earlier this year, BC AHSN was a sponsor of LSBC’s annual Access to Innovation conference and staffed a booth in the exhibition area to raise awareness of the organization to new audiences. Plans are afoot for LSBC to partner with Clinical Trials BC on their Showcase Series, which demonstrates what’s going on in the life sciences field in all regions of the province of British Columbia through in-person exhibitions. These events specifically target researchers and other key stakeholders – and will be an exciting new awareness opportunity for BC AHSN.
The Showcase Series will align nicely with both LSBC and BC AHSN’s existing regional activities (for example, through BC SUPPORT Unit’s regional centres) and will engage more diverse stakeholder groups. Requests have been received by LSBC stakeholders to expand into more communities, and existing resources created by various parts of BC AHSN and its partners can help with this objective.
In this way, BC AHSN and LSBC continue to further develop a reciprocal relationship.
“You’re literally next door and a good link to us in the sense of your units – patient-oriented research, clinical trials and research ethics.”
“I’m very interested in collaborating with BC AHSN and helping in any way that I can. Working together will help us both further and evolve the life sciences sector in British Columbia,” Wendy noted. “You’re literally next door and a good link to us in the sense of your units – patient-oriented research, clinical trials and research ethics. The key is in the power of the collaboration and expanding our reach.”
The outputs of BC AHSN’s work can have multi-faceted benefits for LifeSciences BC’s membership. In addition to regional awareness, the idea of health data access is also a strong area of partnership.
“Some units are generating a lot of data that can really help drive innovation forward, that helps in however we end up making sure that innovation being developed proceeds,” Wendy noted. “We have a wealth of data within our system that is important to leverage and use in making things better.”
“We should be using the [de-identified health] data along with emerging technologies to deliver better patient outcomes and more innovative, efficient processes,” she continued, noting that innovation isn’t just about product development, but changing the way we do things. “I think we all want a sustainable health care system that is delivering better patient outcomes.”
In addition to regional awareness, the idea of health data access is also a strong area of partnership.
And what are Wendy’s thoughts about the BC AHSN organization itself?
“The impression that I have is that you’ve got great leaders who are extremely knowledgeable and know their fields very well,” she said. “You’ve got individuals who are visionary about what BC AHSN can become. There’s an incredible opportunity in bringing all of these groups together and acting as that bridge for the academic and health science side.”
Wendy had more specific thoughts about Clinical Trials BC. Remarkably, in addition to her diverse achievements mentioned earlier, Wendy is also a certified data and privacy professional and has worked with our very own Jean Smart from Clinical Trials BC.
“Having…one unified voice representing BC [in promoting clinical trials] makes a lot of sense. You have great leaders; Jean is so knowledgeable and well connected globally, as a number of clinical trials decision are not made here.”
“We’re actually quite complementary – I haven’t completed my European designation, and she hasn’t completed her Canadian one, so we’re a good duo.”
Wendy affirmed that it’s important for LSBC and BC AHSN continue to collaborate and develop a strong relationship with more opportunities to partner and further each other’s visions.
“If your vision is to be a consolidator, it’s a great way for us to interact and stay close to our membership. We’re two small but mighty groups that are trying to move a needle significantly and make sure that our sector is growing and successful.”
To find out more about LifeSciences BC, please visit https://lifesciencesbc.ca/.