Alumni Profile: Thomas Lester Helping Combat Rare Diseases
As a senior program manager at BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc., alumnus Thomas Lester helps forward product development to bring innovative biopharmaceuticals for serious, rare diseases and medical conditions to the market.
"This job fulfills my goal of contributing to the development of therapeutics," said Lester, who graduated from Keck Graduate Institute in 2004 with a Master of Bioscience (MBS). He currently leads cross-functional core teams within BioMarin to develop product development strategies and drive execution.
Lester describes himself as a "quick study" and says that his role as senior program manager appeals to him because he has the opportunity to interact with almost everyone in the company.
"I wanted to expand beyond market research," said Lester, who previously held positions as a market research analyst at Ligand Pharmaceuticals and UVP, Inc.
While pursuing his MBS degree, Lester worked closely with former Professor Deb Chakravarti during his Team Masters Project (TMP).
"Professor Chakravarti was very good at letting me bounce ideas off of him," said Lester. "He'd worked in the industry a long time so that was very helpful."
He says of his experience at the school: "Everyone is very open at KGI - you can talk to anyone."
As part of his TMP, Lester received real-world experience working with the chief technical officer of UVP, Inc., a global supplier of bioimaging and analysis systems, gel documentation, laboratory products and ultraviolet products.
He did his summer internship, a requirement of MBS students, in the area of process development for BioMarin.
Lester earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the University of Southern California, where he received the outstanding chemical engineering student award.
Today, his work at BioMarin has allowed him to stay connected to current KGI students by serving as corporate liaison for the company's TMPs.
Lester encourages students to pursue their goals with an open mind.
"I tell students, 'Go in and learn what you can from a position before you write it off and move on,'" Lester said. He also encourages them to "ask for what they want."
He adds: "You'd be surprised how much you get when you ask for it."