Name and Job title and Company
Zack Abbott, Founder and CEO, ZBiotics Company
Describe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis.
My day-to-day mostly consists of doing the benchwork necessary to develop my technology to bring my company to the next level. In addition, as the only employee of ZBiotics, I am responsible for fundraising, purchasing reagents and equipment, finding lab space, researching regulatory guidelines, filing patents, talking to investors, reaching out to advisors, and strategizing both scientifically and financially to maximize my chances of success.
How did you get your first job out of academia?
My first job out of academia was working at a contract research organization (CRO), where I designed clinical trials for pharmaceutical and biotech companies. I knew gaining experience navigating FDA regulations would be valuable for my career goals as a biotech entrepreneur, so I managed to get on the phone with a friend of a friend who worked at a small CRO in Miami called Biorasi. Because they were a smaller company, they were willing to hire PhDs with no prior CRO experience. After a phone interview and an in-person interview they offered me a position in their business development department, where I had the opportunity to design dozens of clinical trial programs for potential clients.
What is your favorite part of your current job?
Every single thing I do is directly related to my personal success and achieving my vision. Even if I work 16 hours in a given day, it never feels like work; it feels like taking another step closing to accomplishing my dreams.
What are the unique challenges of this line of work?
The rate of failure is incredibly high for startups, and there are a million different things you have to do to try to minimize your chances of failure. Sometimes I go a week straight without spending a second at the bench because there are so many other things that need to be done. I constantly have to remind myself that this is necessary and that creating a successful startup requires more than just science.
Tell us about your academic background.
I majored in Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley, but did not do any undergraduate research because I didn’t think I was going to pursue a PhD at the time. I then spent a couple years working in some random jobs (construction, bartender, chemical analyst) before getting back into biology. I got a job as a lab tech at an HIV lab at UC Davis studying potential vaccines and therapies for HIV. My experience in this lab motivated me to apply to PhD programs. I ended up in the microbiology and immunology department at the University of Michigan, where I studied gene regulation in the bacteria Legionella pneumophila.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking for a job now?
If you have an idea for a company, don’t wait! Start working on it now. Read about your idea. Try to find patents, papers, and websites related to your idea. Talk to your tech transfer office and/or the entrepreneurship center if you’re still in school. Talk to potential customers and end-users of your product to see if it’s something they really want. Start building your idea. Don’t be afraid to fail! The best way to make it happen is to just start doing it. I know that sounds stupid, but I made excuse after excuse to not work on my idea, until I just stopped making excuses and started working, and in the end I was really the only thing standing in my way.
Learn more about Zack Abbott here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zaabbott