Do you want to learn more about the newest MCPHS fellowship program, in collaboration with Gelesis? Read on to hear from their Director of Medical Affairs, Damian Bialonczyk, PharmD, MBA, about the new program and his journey from MCPHS fellow to program director.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My wife and I welcomed our first child, Julian, in early May. So I’m first and foremost a father and loving husband. I’m also someone that finds passion and excitement in the work that I do professionally. I’m a firm believer that as pharmacists we are extremely well-positioned to make a massive impact within the biopharmaceutical and medical device industries. When I’m not working you can find me playing soccer and other outdoor activities. I’m also an avid car enthusiast and active real estate investor.
Can you tell us about your professional journey and how you got to your current position at Gelesis?
I’m originally from Woonsocket, RI – the hometown of CVS – so I was initially set on becoming a retail pharmacist and actually worked full-time as a student pharmacist during school. One day I had a serendipitous encounter with an MCPHS fellow who happened to stumble into my pharmacy on a Saturday morning… that conversation ultimately led to me changing my career plans. After graduating from URI with my PharmD and MBA I completed a fellowship with MCPHS University and BD Diabetes Care. During that time I also worked at Well Life Medical managing pharmacotherapy for patients with diabetes. Following my fellowship I spent a few more years at BD Diabetes Care supporting the development of digitally-enabled tools for diabetes management. I’ve always had an interest in metabolic disease – diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease – so when Gelesis had an opening for a Director of Medical Affairs, I was immediately drawn. I joined the organization in late 2019.
Can you tell us about Gelesis?
Gelesis is a Boston-based biotechnology company that is trying to change the way that we approach prescription obesity management. In addition to developing a novel non-systemic therapeutic option for people with overweight and obesity (i.e. Plenity), Gelesis is leveraging partnerships in telemedicine to increase access to care. Besides obesity management, pipeline candidates based on the Gelesis hydrogel platform technology are also in development for type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC). Gelesis was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Biotechnology Companies for 2020.
Can you tell us about the new Medical Affairs fellowship being offered in collaboration with MCPHS?
Our team is beyond excited to welcome our first fellow for the upcoming academic year. The Gelesis Medical Affairs fellowship will offer the opportunity to gain in depth functional experience necessary to support the commercialization of a new therapeutic agent. Rather than having preset rotations, fellowship responsibilities will evolve organically as our commercialized and pipeline products advance through their respective lifecycles. During the two-year program, our fellow will have varying levels of exposure to medical information, pharmacovigilance, scientific communications, KOL engagement, and medical strategy. Given that our team at Gelesis is small and nascent, our Medical Affairs fellow will be expected to be an active contributor and lead several of their own projects.
Gelesis has a great support system and opportunity for mentorship at the leadership level for post-PharmD fellows. Our Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Marketing Officer are both industry pharmacists and therefore understand the inherent value that a fellow brings to the team.
Why did you decide to start a fellowship and what are you most excited about?
As an MFN alumnus and past fellowship program director, I can appreciate how beneficial having a post-PharmD fellowship could be to a growing organization. As I mentioned before, I’m a firm believer that pharmacists possess a unique balance of medical acumen and strategic thinking that uniquely position them for high impact in the industry. I’m most excited about adding a new member to the team that can offer a fresh perspective, creativity, and a willingness to challenge the norm.