The Springboard Atlantic network is made up of over 30 individuals with a unique and diverse set of skills. Our member profiles let you meet the talented individuals who make up our network.
Meet Marc Richard with Synapse, a business development and technology transfer officer for the University of Prince Edward Island.
What is your professional background prior to joining Synapse/Springboard?
I did my PhD in pharmacology at Dalhousie and then I was recruited to do my post-doc with the National Research Council (NRC) on Prince Edward Island. Following my postdoc I got a job with a biotech company developing a new drugs for the management of chronic pain. This company was eventually bought out by a Charlottetown-based company that was coincidentally right down the hall from where I had been working. So, I just moved down the hall and I continued with the exact same project. I was with that company for five or six years.
What kind of research were you doing for this company? And how did that lead you to UPEI?
In that role, I worked as part of a multidisciplinary team to develop a novel small molecule for chronic pain management. Specifically, because my background is in electrophysiology, which is the study of the electrical properties of cells, my role was to assess the efficacy of our test compounds on isolated neurons.
My role in pain research evolved over time and I started helping the company formulate its new natural product line targeting Alzheimer’s Disease. At this time, I also began taking on managerial and business development duties. I participated in their board meetings and contributed to the strategic planning of the company. I also represented the company at international meetings and helped them to secure new investments. I think that it was this experience that eventually helped get me my current position at UPEI as a technology transfer/business development officer. I’ve now been in this position for 2 years and I mostly handle the life sciences portfolio.
How does your previous research expertise in shine through in your current role at Synapse?
My background as a researcher certainly helps me in my interactions with the researchers on campus. It helps me to more effectively communicate with them and it allows me to better understand their projects. As well, I think that having a PhD myself provides me with a certain level of credibility with our researchers
What was your introduction to the Springboard network?
My very first day on the job was at a network meeting in Halifax. To be honest, that meeting made me question my decision to switch jobs. At that time, I hardly understood a thing about technology transfer, so I was confused and overwhelmed most of the time. As well I realized that although I could speak the “language of science” very effectively I knew very little about the “language of business”. It was quite humbling. Fortunately, over time, and with the help of the Synapse team and my pan-Atlantic colleagues, it all gradually became clearer. I now even understand most of the acronyms.
In what ways does being a part of the Springboard network support your work at Synapse?
Central office organizes and/or supports the networking and industry focused events where we make a lot of our best connections and partnerships. One good example where Synapse has benefitted from a Springboard initiative was the Lobster Food File, which led to a lot of projects for UPEI.
What business/research opportunities are in Prince Edward Island that others might not know of?
Most people don’t think of the Island as a hub for the bio sciences sector. I didn’t before I came here, but there is a lot going on here that is, in large part, due to the PEI BioAlliance. They’re very good in bringing new companies to the PEI.
In the 15 years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen that sector grow and I’ve been part of that growth. Bioscience related GDP on PEI swelled by 83% between 2012 and 2018 – 3.8 times faster than the overall economy. The bioscience cluster now accounts for 4.4% of the entire provincial economy. It is exciting to be around here on the Island and educating those off-Island about the opportunities we have here.