A globe-trotting chemist turned-lawyer-turned businessman, Ferran Prat, Ph.D., J.D., sees himself as an agent for some of cancer medicine's biggest stars. As vice president for Strategic Industry Ventures, he helps connect our researchers with pharmaceutical companies, resources and tools to help in their efforts to end cancer.
We recently spoke with Prat to learn more about him. Here's what he had to say.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in a small village on the border of Spain and France called Sant Joan de les Abadesses. It's north of Barcelona and has about 4,000 people. The village is surrounded mostly by factories and sheep.
How many languages do you speak?
I can speak Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese and English.
How did you end up in the United States?
I've always been fascinated by the U.S. and the American way of life. My father taught me that there was a lot to be learned from this country, which led me to pursue a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles.
What was your first job?
While I was working on my Ph.D., I got hired by a management consulting firm. I started in Brazil, near my wife's family, learning the basics of business as I went. After a couple of years, I moved back to the United States and attended law school - while working full time for an international firm developing diagnostics and health management services.
What influenced you to move into health care?
The transition to health care wasn't a conscious decision. I was working on my Ph.D. and realized working full time in a lab wasn't for me. My current role uses my background in law and science and ensures I can help advocate for the best resources and partnerships for our doctors and researchers and negotiate what will help us further our mission to end cancer most.
How do you describe your work?
In Strategic Industry Ventures, we're working to connect companies and our researchers who want partnerships to move their projects forward. Our office works like agents for our doctors and researchers. Just like in Hollywood, we have star scientists here, people who are the best in their fields. When you're of that caliber, it benefits you to have an agent. Negotiating is a different skill set. It's not one that you learn in medical school or a scientific Ph.D. program. You're also at a disadvantage when you negotiate for yourself. We help our doctors focus on their research and negotiate the best alliances for their work and for our patients.
What do you like best about your job?
The people! It was the most pleasant surprise when I arrived to discover that everyone was extremely welcoming. Every Sunday night I find myself looking forward to coming to work (if I haven't been working on Sunday itself!).
What attracted you to MD Anderson?
MD Anderson is the perfect mix of an academic institution with the brainpower and mission of doing good, and a business that is willing to make things happen. It's the best of both worlds. Our leaders are serious about attracting and retaining great talent and getting things done to further research and cure cancer. It's a very special place.
What's your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
I love to play saxophone. I picked it up about eight years ago during law school. I've been lucky to find colleagues here who play. Dr. Patrick Hwu invited me to join him, Dr. Jim Allison and some other faculty members in the band The Checkmates.
What's your favorite place you've lived?
I've lived in many metropolitan cities - Barcelona, London, São Paolo, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, New York City, San Diego and Houston, and the last two beat all the others, hands down. I really like living in Houston. The people here are open and friendly, and that's what makes a place a good place to live.
What's one thing on your bucket list?
Nothing! I made a conscious decision not to have one because I have everything I could ever ask for: good health, friends, my family and a satisfying job that lets me help other people.
This article originally appeared in Messenger, MD Anderson's bimonthly employee publication.