Cherie Butts, Medical Director – Therapeutics Development Unit at Biogen
What attracted you to a career in the life sciences?
I always loved math, was fascinated by how the human body works, and am obsessed with escaping sickness. Life sciences was a natural career choice, as it incorporated my passions.
What was your ‘front door’ to the industry and how did your education decisions put you on a career path to where you are right now?
I wanted to better understand what decisions went into making new medicines. I studied chemistry in college and immunology in graduate school but would say it was work experiences (speaking to patients in the clinic, doing research in a hospital laboratory, and working on clinical trials) that offered the best preparation for what I do now.
As a career rather than simply a job, what opportunities do you see for next steps on your path?
I have worked in every aspect of drug development (from concept to approval) and have seen what delays bringing new medicines to patients. I want to tackle those delays and start my own company (be a founder). There are few founders who are women of color, which makes it even more important – showing those who look like me what else they can be.
What career and education advice would you like to give to someone considering a career in the life sciences?
When I started in school, I never imagined doing what I am now. In fact, I did not know it was something to consider. My advice is to never assume there is one path to any career, be open to learning new skills, take advantage of unfamiliar opportunities, and be willing to bring your perspective to new environments because this moves the life sciences and entire ecosystem forward.