The recent addition of the Healthcare and Business major to Butler University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences reflects the evolving needs within the life sciences industry. Many of these students will go straight into jobs at pharmaceutical or medical device companies, healthcare IT, or public policy positions; others will be prepared to go into clinical graduate programs or pursue post-graduate programs in public health or hospital administration.
When Lynne Zydowsky ’81 began pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Butler University, no such combination major existed and her path seemed fairly clear cut. After graduation, she would probably return to the small town of Newton, Illinois and help run the family-owned drug store where she had worked for nearly as long as she remembered. Her father had followed the same path—including graduating from Butler—and it seemed a logical progression.
Instead, at the urging of what she describes as the interested and insightful Butler Pharmacy School faculty, she received a doctorate in Chemistry from The Ohio State University and was a National Institutes of Health post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. Because her career path kept merging with the business side of life sciences, she briefly considered entering an MBA program. “However, in the end, I really believed that I was learning a lot along the way, and that I had the innate desire to solve the problems at hand and was able to accomplish it in a positive and creative way,” she said.
In the last 25 years, she has launched and built several successful life science companies, playing a key role in raising private capital, setting overall corporate strategy, and establishing and managing strategic alliances. Since 2003, she has owned her own business, Zydowsky Consultants, as well as served as Chief Science Advisor to the CEO for Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc, a NYSE traded company. In addition, she co-founded the Alexandria Summit®, an invitation-only gathering that brings together the world’s foremost visionaries from the biopharma and tech industries; medical, academic, financial, philanthropic, advocacy groups; and government to discuss and take action on the most needed innovation in life sciences.
She credits much of her success and subsequent leadership to a work ethic established in the family business that carried over to her years at Butler. “There was no doubt that my post-graduate work was going to be self-funded. Even while at Butler, I worked in the science library as a lab tech and at both Haag’s Drug Store and the Winona Hospital pharmacy,” she recounts. “I got my (pharmacy) license to practice in Indiana and Ohio after college because I had to support myself in graduate school. I learned to manage my time and work efficiently.”
Her advice to those students considering a career in the life sciences?
“You always have to be realistic about the opportunities at hand—even when I was getting my PhD I was thinking about my future job,” she said. “I’d really like to see students intern every summer in internships that are meaningful where they can experience different segments of business, science, or philanthropy and not wait until their last summer before graduation … why not do it every summer?”
Zydowsky has lived in San Francisco since 1996, moving there initially for a position with a biotech company. She admits it took several years before she adjusted to living on the West Coast. Now? “I can’t imagine leaving,” she said. “Acceptance, social responsibility, and innovation are woven into the fabric of the city. There’s a feeling that no problem is too big to solve. Living here really changed me; it’s made me more open and creative in my thinking.”