LEADERs Takes Jordie Kamuene PhD’23 Down a New Path to Venture Creation

From her roots in the Democratic Republic of Congo to a fellowship at Amgen and onto Flagship Pioneering, through LEADERs she found her sweet spot: the venture creation of public health startups.

By Anna Fiorentino 

It was her LEADERs fellowship with biopharmaceutical pioneer Amgen that led Jordie Kamuene, Pharmaceutical Sciences, PhD’23, to find a new career path in venture creation, but her career path really starts with her family history—in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). When Kamuene was young, she fled civil unrest and became a refugee until she was 13 years old, when her father was granted asylum and her family moved to the United States.

“I came from a country where public health systems were nonexistent, so I wanted to be able to learn how to take back knowledge to people who are still in the DRC,” says Kamuene.

Her passion carried her into a myriad of disciplines, first studying biology—learning about how sleep patterns affect reproduction as an undergrad—and later as a PhD in the lab of Assistant Professor Leigh Plant, researching how (voltage-gated sodium) proteins, vital to electrical signals in our bodies, can lead to cardiac disease or sudden infant death syndrome. “I couldn’t help but notice how science was necessary to understand contributors to public health crises,” says Kamuene.

Thinking more seriously about the future, at a crossroads, she signed up for the LEADERs’ foundational class “Leading Self and Others,” where she found freedom to explore her options and figure out what she wanted to do for the rest of her life—teaching versus industry,  public health versus drug development.

“As a PhD, I was so siloed—my friends were either in my department or a similar field—so the 7600 course helped me build networks and learn about what other PhD students were doing,” says Kamuene, adding it helped her grow and build relationships. “The class had a dual purpose of exposing us to each other and building our knowledge around key business facets.”

Through the PhD Network, Kamuene was then placed in a LEADERs fellowship on a product quality team at Amgen, where she helped build a network system database for employees to more easily access the company’s catalog of pharmaceuticals. Pushing herself through LEADERs to try something totally new outside of her comfort zone, working off the bench gave her the flexibility to continue her PhD, while discovering new ways to manage her work. Between the class and her placement at Amgen she developed communication, project management, teamwork, and leadership skills.

“I took what I learned and applied it to my research. I shared it with my lab,” she says. That included new ways of managing her research, and effective approaches to promoting teamwork and communication. After eight months at Amgen, Kamuene went onto another fellowship in a very different field—venture creation. There, at a company focused on creating biotech startups, Flagship Pioneering, at the intersection of public health and biology—with the project management and leadership skills she built in LEADERs—Kamuene found her niche in venture creation.

“I felt very empowered to follow my interests—because I had the safety net of the LEADERs placement—to try out something outside of my field,” adds Kamuene, who ultimately hopes to work in the venture creation of public health startups. “Afterwards, I knew that if I was placed in something new, I’d have what it takes to excel and do well.”

Upon completion of the “Leading Self and Others” course, LEADERs program staff and partner companies select fellows who align with specific industry needs. PhDs are supported through the fellowship application process and placed in a specialized role to solve a problem in industry, going on to earn a LEADERs’ Experiential PhD leadership certificate, with guidance from an industry mentor and faculty advisor. The program is run by the PhD Network, which helps prepare students to enter the workforce as impactful researchers.

To learn more about earning the LEADERs certificate or partnering with the PhD Network to host a LEADERs fellow at your organization, contact Wendy Eaton, director of LEADERs partnership relations. Follow us on LinkedIn