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Dr. Matthew Dahabieh
Chief Science Officer, Renaissance Bioscience
Growing up, Matthew Dahabieh always thought he would go to medical school. However, studying for his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, he discovered that his real passion lay in the laboratory. “When you’re young, you kind of equate science and medicine, and don’t necessarily appreciate that there is this whole other aspect to the equation, called research,” he says.
Through an honours thesis project, Dahabieh undertook applied lab work that was focused on solving problems in industry. “I had early exposure to the concept of translational research and, ultimately, trying to derive commercial products from fundamental biology,” he says, and this steered him away from medical practice towards this type of research.
After pursuing a traditional academic route, including a PhD in health science research, Dahabieh embarked on a post-doctoral research project at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco. His interest in translational research and commercialization of science technology persisted, however, and he decided to make the move into industry, taking a job with the early-stage biotechnology company Renaissance BioScience.
The entrepreneurial nature of the role appealed to Dahabieh, who notes, “At Renaissance, I get the opportunity to use the scientific foundation and understanding that I have, but really apply it in a translational capacity.”
Dahabieh joined Renaissance BioScience as Head of Research in September 2014, but quickly became more heavily involved in business development at the company, adding VP of Business Development to his title in January 2015. He saw the Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization as a means of formalizing the hands-on exposure to business concepts that he was getting in his day-to-day work.
“When I saw the graduate certificate program at SFU I thought it was a really good opportunity to do an accelerated course in business training and really become comfortable at the boardroom table more quickly than if I was to just absorb everything on-the-job,” he explains. Dahabieh believes that this training has contributed to the speed of his promotion to the role of Chief Science Office in January 2017, as the C-suite team felt greater confidence in his broader understanding of all aspects of the business, from operations to business development and finance.
Dahabieh notes that the leadership training he has received through the program has been particularly beneficial in his work so far: “When you come to entrepreneurship from a science background, you have very little training or exposure to the finer points of leadership and how to build teams.”
The lessons Dahabieh learned through the program were highly applicable to the issues and challenges he faces in his work, and he also emphasizes the value and opportunities he has derived from the network he built among fellow students, instructors and guest lecturers in the program.
Having completed the program and experienced the benefits in his own career, Dahabieh has one clear piece of advice for anyone considering applying: “I would say that if scientists have any aspirations to be entrepreneurs and if they can make it work in their lives, they should definitely take the plunge—they won’t regret it.”
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