August 02, 2022
As he heads into his final month as President and CEO of Genome BC, Pascal Spothelfer ‘hasn’t taken his foot off the gas. He has been busy preparing Genome BC for a leadership transition to incoming President and CEO Suzanne Gill, speaking about the expansion of scientific research and biomedical technology and the role of Genome BC in an appearance on the Conversations that Matter podcast, and he was also named as a finalist for the BC Tech Association’s Person of the Year award.
In the middle of this eventful time of transition, we spoke with him to discuss his accomplishments, what he considers effective leadership, his legacy and what the future holds for the genomics and life science industry in BC.
Dr. Pascal Spothelfer, President and CEO of Genome BC
Interview responses have been shortened for clarity and length.
On leading Genome BC
What’s changed under your leadership?
Genome BC has always been about funding genomics research. However, I integrated innovation into our core mandate as part of our 2020-2023 strategic plan – this was a deliberate choice and a direct result of our value proposition and the mandate to promote the responsible uptake of genomics.
We have also added considerable resources to genomics and society to create new initiatives and programs that have become a critical part of Genome BC’s portfolio. This work includes ensuring underrepresented voices in society and science remain top of mind as part of our mandate.
What’s one of your favourite projects from your time at Genome BC?
As a leader, I love to guide strategy, which also led us to rethink our strategic planning process and how to include staff more effectively. This included a discovery process that ultimately clarified our values as an organization. I implemented a rolling three-year strategic planning process with the introduction of our 2020-2023 strategic plan.
The COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding Program was another real highlight for me. It was tremendous to see how quickly everyone at Genome BC mobilized research funding by being creative and using our expertise to respond in real-time to a global health crisis.
What have you enjoyed most at Genome BC?
It’s a tie between working with a fantastic team and this work’s endless learning opportunities.
Genome BC’s contributions to the province
How does Genome BC’s research contribute to the health and well-being of British Columbians?
In my recent interview on the Conversation that Matter podcast, I discussed how genomics benefits more and more patients when treating cancer, rare diseases, and many other conditions. This is key to precision medicine. Genomics allows you to analyze your DNA and tailor drugs or treatments best suited to you.￼
“I’m convinced that in years to come, we will all be touched by genomics.”
On the path forward
What is the state of the life sciences sector in BC?
The depth of knowledge and excellence in BC’s life sciences research and innovation ecosystem is remarkable. The next step is more effectively applying and commercializing that knowledge in healthcare, the environment, forestry, etc.
What are some of the biggest challenges for the sector?
It’s a question of capacity. Capacity matters. Users, the health care system, industry or others need to understand how to apply genomics as a platform technology to whatever problem they try to solve.
Users, the health care system, industry or others need to understand how to apply genomics as a platform technology to whatever problem they try to solve.
Where is BC able to shine?
We have strength across the board, but I am convinced that our province is very well positioned to lead in environmental applications, environmental DNA or eDNA.
Lessons in leadership
What advice do you have for those in leadership positions?
In my opinion, the keys to leadership success are to be authentic, transparent and okay with operating in an environment of uncertainty.
As a CEO, you need to make sound strategic decisions that will benefit the organization, often imperfect information or without the whole picture. A good leader must be okay with leading in the grey zone.
Genome BC: A beacon of excellence (w/ Pascal Spothelfer, Genome BC) from Conversations That Matter on Vimeo.