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Meet the Scientist: Zaven Kaprielian, Director of Research in Neuroscience at Amgen Massachusetts

Written by Zaven Kaprielian

This profile is a part of the Amgen Foundation’s “Meet the Scientists” series, where we invite students and teachers to learn more about a scientist at Amgen and the work they do to create lifesaving medicines. Join the conversation by sharing your own experiences with @AmgenFoundation and @Amgen.

What do you do in a typical day?
I manage a team of Amgen Neuroscience Discovery Research scientists dedicated to developing new therapeutics for ALS and Parkinson’s disease. As part of this, I set the scientific strategy for my team, and identify and foster collaborations with academic labs/start-up biotech companies to strengthen our pipeline of innovative therapies and technologies. I also play a role in recruiting the next generation of Amgen scientists.

What made you want to pursue this career?
I lost my mother to a brain tumor and my dad to Alzheimer’s disease. After 18.5 years as a basic neuroscientist running a lab in academia, I was compelled to carry out more translational research that could someday lead to the development of new and effective therapeutics for neurological disorders.

What motivates you each day?
The opportunity to serve patients and rid humanity of devastating and debilitating neurological disorders.

What are some exciting things you have done/are doing at Amgen?
I am always excited to work with highly talented, enthusiastic and driven scientists of all levels and to help convey Amgen science and culture to the outside world. At the same time, I get to investigate how human genetics can unlock a myriad of disease mechanisms and lead to new and effective therapeutics. It’s also exciting to work closely with dynamic start-ups to identify strategies for developing new drugs and to intimately participate in drug discovery efforts that could eliminate human suffering.

What was your favorite subject in school?
It varied – as an undergraduate, I enjoyed physics, specifically quantum mechanics and electrodynamics. However, in graduate school I enjoyed developmental biology and later developmental neuroscience when I was a post-doctoral fellow and faculty member.

What kinds of skills do you use in your job?
A combination of scientific and interpersonal skills. The key skills are primarily quantitative/statistical assessment, time management and communication.

What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing biotech?
There are a few things that I recommend aspiring scientists keep in mind, including:

  • Always strive to do the best science and publish the most impactful papers.
  • Network with industry scientists.
  • Do a postdoc in the industry.
  • Deeply investigate disease biology and learn all that you can about how industry scientists carry out experimental investigations.
  • Familiarize yourself with existing therapeutics and new trends in drug development.
  • Gain a deep understanding of human genetics and its applicability to drug discovery.

To learn how the Amgen Foundation brings biotechnology to students, visit the Amgen Biotech Experience website. Follow @AmgenFoundation to stay up to date with all STEM-related news from the Amgen Foundation.

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