5 Questions with Kathryn Hamilton, MSB, Senior Consultant, Biomedical Positioning, Booz Allen Hamilton, Managing Editor & Senior Staff Writer Bioeconomy.XYZ

“5 Questions With…” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people in the BioHealth Capital Region to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. This week we welcome Kathryn Hamilton, MSB, Senior Consultant, Biomedical Positioning with Booz Allen Hamilton, and Managing Editor & Senior Staff writer Bioeconomy.XYZ

Kathryn Hamilton, MSB is a Senior Consultant, Biomedical Positioning with Booz Allen Hamilton and Managing Editor & Senior Staff writer Bioeconomy.XYZ. She graduated from Calvin University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry and a Master’s of Science in Business from the Catholic University of America. “This article was prepared by the author in their personal capacities. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, opinion, or position of their employer.”

1. Please introduce yourself to our audience with a look back at your education, training, and career.

My career thus far has really been shaped by two poignant “ah-ha” moments. I had my first introduction to research in high school where I worked for a summer at Calvin University which was my first experience with the implementation of the scientific method in a lab setting. Scientific research allows you to sit on the precipice of humanity’s collective understanding about a particular element of the world–and through asking questions and thoughtful experimentation– you take a step into the unknown. That continuous cycle of learning by asking questions and building a series of experiments to discover an answer is an invigorating process. So, I graduated from Calvin University with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry which allowed that cycle to define my undergraduate learning experience.

My second “ah-ha” moment came during a month-long trip to Nepal. Over the course of that trip I kept reflecting on the extremes that we were presented with, for example the breathtaking natural beauty of the Himalayas and the extreme human suffering that defines the day-to-day reality of the most generous individuals I have ever had the privilege of meeting. It was this realization that there is tremendous potential for transformation at the intersection of things that are normally juxtaposed. And returning home, I wanted to bring all that I had learned from studying science to a new area. So, I pursued a Master’s of Science in Business (MSB) which allowed me to build a business lens to compliment my scientific background.

After graduation, I worked in Business Development at the American Society of Hematology. My work focused on creating impactful and mutually beneficial strategic partnerships with industry leaders to support clinicians and scientists in their work to conquer blood diseases. By working to redefine the traditional collaboration model, I was able to begin building a career around asking questions and building nuanced solutions to the unmet needs of multi-stakeholder groups.  

2. You’ve been with Bioeconomy.XYZ for over a year, but just joined Booz Allen as Senior Consultant, Biomedical Positioning. How will your experience over the past year support your new role?

In my opinion, science is synonymous with a creative worldview and contributing to Bioeconomy.XYZ is an incredible experience because it provides myself and others a forum to embrace that creativity. It’s a place to share what about the bioeconomy excites you and discuss solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing the world. As the Managing Editor, I also spend a significant amount of time dialoguing with and learning from extraordinary individuals who are incredibly passionate about biotechnology and the bioeconomy at large.      

Joining Booz Allen Hamilton really was a natural next step for me. The company as a whole has five values – ferocious integrity, unflinching courage, passionate service, champion’s heart, and collective ingenuity- those are very bold and ambitious ideas to put into practice. An organization actively striving to implement those into everything they do is an organization that I want to be a part of. During the interview process, someone shared that when you ask someone on the street what Booz Allen does, Life Sciences consulting might not be the first thing they mention.

I’m here to help change that. It’s an opportunity to create ambitious solutions alongside the firm’s scientists, bioinformaticians, clinicians, and technologists for multifaceted, persistent pain points in the bioeconomy. Bioeconomy.XYZ gave me a forum to communicate with individuals about the incredible science being conducted and a vehicle for writing about integrating business with the bioeconomy. I love learning from others about the work that they pioneer and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn from existing and new partners and build creative solutions to their most pressing problems.

3. How do you view BAH as a contributor to the Biotech world and where do you see the organization playing a role in the BioHealth Capital Region?

There are many biotech hubs in the United States however the most significant among them is without a doubt the BioHealth Capital Region because it is the hub most conducive to collaboration between the federal government, academic institutions, and private industry. Each of these stakeholder groups maintain such unique and essential scientific intellectual capital and this region is primed to launch forward thinking collaborations. I joined Booz Allen because I want to help organizations overcome the barriers that exist to those innovative collaborations.

The measure of success for any organization are its people – and the Life Sciences Practice at Booz Allen Hamilton is comprised of leaders with diverse and prestigious professional backgrounds. Across a variety of marquee federal and commercial health clients, the firm is bringing technology-enabled solutions in biomedical research and discovery, health informatics and analytics, modernized regulatory platforms, and AI/ML-driven cyber-biosecurity solutions, just to name a few. My personal reaction to Booz Allen’s Life Sciences Practice was “I want to solve these problems, in this region, with this group of people” and I think that is a compelling combination for impact.

4. From your perspective, where are the largest gaps in Biohealth and how would you address them over the next 5 years?

There are several that come to mind, however I do think that one of the most pressing will be tangibly addressing how everything comes together. At a high level, it will answering the question “How do we take several complex things and harmonize them in an uncomplicated manner?” Every scientific discipline and novel technology is so nuanced in compositon and application that being able to integrate multiple within a specific microcosm will be the key to a thriving bioeconomy. It’s the macroscale translation of a technology from an in vitro enviroment to in vivo enviroment to anticipate the variables of production, licensing, promotion, staffing, partnerships, distribution, etc.

That’s another reason that I joined Booz Allen, because the company has a demonstrated history of shepherding, integrating, and harmonizing the range of science, technology, and programmatic capabilities necessary to conceive, research, and execute the most promising biohealth concepts. I’m joining a team that continually invests in in scientific and technical offerings while still cultivating partnerships across highly-specific, niche domains.

And second, I believe that the scientific community is still grappling with the best way to form an inclusive conversation around the bioeconomy. The biotechnology that is being developed today will shape every individual’s life regardless of whether or not we understand it. Not everyone needs to be involved in the creation of the technology but building trust with those who are, and the scientific method will be essential to widescale adoption. History is filled with examples of the turmoil that can occur when building trust comes after new technology is developed; I would like the flourishing bioeconomy to try it differently.

5. You are hosting a dinner party and must invite 3 famous people living or from history. Who would you choose and why??

Without hesitation I would invite Natsai Audrey Chieza, Jennifer Doudna, and Dante Alighieri.

Natsai Audrey Chieza is a biodesigner and founder of Faber Futures. One of Bioeconomy.XYZ’s themes for 2021 is Biotechnology as Humanity’s Highest Artform, it is also my favorite, and I think the work Natsai leads epitomizes that theme in practice. She is incredibly creative, speaks with hope for our collective future, and I would love to collaborate with her.

Jennifer Doudna, alongside Emmanuelle Charpentier, was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on CRISPR gene editing. But before that, I read her book “A Crack in Creation” as a part of my favorite class during undergrad. Her work will certainly define my lifetime and I would cherish the chance to learn from her informally over a meal.

And lastly, Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy. I had the chance to read and study the long narrative poem in Florence and grappling with his work has without a doubt shaped my worldview. I continue to appreciate Dante’s ability to intertwine moments of fallible, human humor with deep reflection on the human condition. I think we would be fast friends and I would treasure the chance to hear his thoughts on biotechnology.

Thank you to Kathryn Hamilton, MSB, Senior Consultant, Biomedical Positioning with Booz Allen Hamilton, and Managing Editor & Senior Staff writer Bioeconomy.XYZ for participating in the ‘5 Questions with BioBuzz’ series, and stay tuned for more interviews with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region and beyond.

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