The international nature of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University combined with the wealth of internationalized pharmaceutical companies in the Suzhou BioBAY area make XJTLU Wisdom Lake Academy of Pharmacy a good choice for students both from home and abroad, says Professor Mu Wang, Executive Dean of the Academy.
“One of our advantages is the large complement of international staff. Students would learn not only about the ins and outs of the Chinese pharmaceutical industry, but also of those overseas, so the skills learned here are transferable to many places and situations.
“This would be one of the best places for international students to get to know what's really going on in pharmaceutical science,” explains Professor Wang.
Dr Yimin Ding, Vice President of XJTLU, explains that the Academy aims to teach students practical skills to make them more industry-ready: “Because they often lack real-world experience, it can be difficult for graduates to be employable as soon as they finish university. At the Academy of Pharmacy, we aim to give our students opportunities both inside and outside the University to get familiar with the industry, so that when they graduate, they can hit the ground running.”
Giving a speech at the Academy’s launch event recently, Professor Hualiang Jiang, member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Dean of the Academy of Pharmacy, said: “It costs a lot to develop a talent in modern biomedicine and pharmacy, especially with the new technologies advancing at such a high speed. The limitations of traditional pharmaceutical schools have never been more clear.
“In order to catch up, we need to make use of every resource possible and build new academies of pharmacy with new educational approaches.”
Also speaking at the launch, Qiang Yu, CEO of CGeneTech Co., Ltd., said: “Biomedical and pharmaceutical enterprises in Suzhou have been flourishing in the past decade. At the current phase, the biggest hurdle is a lack of talent.”
Professor Wang, Executive Dean, explains that when students are given industry-relevant skills in a real-world setting, it benefits both parties – graduates are more appealing to hiring managers and possess attributes that reduce their learning curve in a new job.
“For many students who graduate from college or university, they have good theoretical knowledge from a book. Maybe they even have an article published in a journal. But how much hands-on experience do they have? How much management experience? Many of them don't have any.
“For the company, it may take up to a year or two to develop a particular employee into a capable or competent person to be in that position, to make a contribution to the company,” he says.
“Enterprises want students to do an internship because then they have a good pool of students who worked with them. They have a strong desire to train them effectively because it could be good for the company as well.”
This is why the Academy of Pharmacy is planning a host of ways to maximize the partnership with industry. “In addition to the traditional modules necessary for in-depth knowledge of the field, such as chemistry, molecular biology, etc., we also want students to understand the practical side of the pharmaceutical industry. How does one manage a research team? What is the process for FDA approval? How does one deal with biopharmaceutical companies?
“Even if they don’t experience situations like this in their day-to-day tasks, it’s good for students to understand these things to get a better idea of how the industry works.”
In addition to focused industry workshops and guest lectures, Professor Wang envisions regular seminars where speakers explain concepts in lay language.
“Fields of study are very specific, and being an expert in one doesn’t mean you understand every other related field. We want these seminars to bring people from different areas together, including industry guests, or visiting international experts.”
One of the areas that the XJTLU Wisdom Lake Academy of Pharmacy plans to delve into is the use of AI in the development of drugs. “AI can help researchers maximize their research,” Professor Wang explains. “For example, a geneticist is working on something that could be applicable in immunology, but if they don’t know a lot about immunology, they wouldn’t realize it. How do you make that connection? You need a very smart person who knows both sides very well, which is almost impossible.
“That’s where AI comes in. AI can make calculations much faster than humans. The field is still relatively new. For example, AI can’t diagnose human illnesses with perfect precision, but it’s improving,” says Professor Wang.
The Academy, being a new school, is poised to take advantage of new advancements in the industry and delve into promising areas of research.
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