Two generations innovating side-by-side

Story originally published in BioTalent Canada’s Close-up on the bio-economy: Quebec

Immune Biosolutions aims to be Canada’s next anchor company in life sciences — and knows it needs a strong corporate culture to reach that goal. Success hinges on marrying the knowledge and expertise of its senior researchers with the capacity of next-generation recruits to fuel growth at high speed.

Q: What’s your focus at Immune Biosolutions?

FRÉDÉRIC LEDUC, CEO (Former): We discover and develop immunotherapies — using antibodies to retool patients’ immune systems so they can fight infectious diseases and combat cancer cells. We have an antibody treatment for COVID-19 in development. We’ve also developed several platforms to remove bottlenecks in drug discovery and want to expand that. Our goal is to become Canada’s
next life sciences anchor company.

Q: What’s your biggest HR challenge when it comes to achieving that goal?

MELODY LOUBAT, HUMAN RESOURCES ADVISOR: First of all, there is just the sheer speed of growth. We recently hired 15 people in just a few weeks. And we’re also finding there are generational differences that we need to be aware of and manage well. Most new hires are from Gen Z and Gen Y, and they have different work habits and expectations than our senior researchers. With two shifts running every 24 hours, we need to maintain synergy across our teams.

Q: How do you build a culture that brings out the best in both generations?

ML: You need to keep a dialogue open and be proactive. The key is to ask people what they’re looking for instead of just assuming you know.

FL: We try to do as much as possible. We hold weekly HR meetings and conduct regular surveys. We partner with BioTalent Canada, Montreal Invivo and Pharma Biodevelopment, which provide talent development programs, news and services to support our sector. We have an incubator that provides HR and coaching resources, knowledge transfer and training. We also have an external HR consultant who is also a university professor and understands the recent grad mindset. And we hired Melody, who’s focused on building the team dynamic.

ML: Our interview process looks for the right fit. Scientists are very open-minded and can learn new skills quickly, but you can’t train them for fit. It helps that we’re starting to build a stronger brand as an employer.

Q: What positions do you most need to fill in the near or long term?

FL: Over the next two years we’ll need scientists with management skills, leadership skills, expertise in project and risk management, communications, problem solving, ethics. Canadian universities turn out great scientists but there’s always a gap in their skill set. We also need more entrepreneurs. That quality is incredibly useful. And we need people with expertise in artificial intelligence, which puts us into competition with Google and Facebook. Then there are the non-science business roles — buyers, accountants, business development.

Q: Has remote work expanded your recruitment pool?

FL: With remote work you can reach more people, but it’s also made recruitment more expensive. Candidates know the salaries they can command, even if those aren’t based on where they live. A potential Chief Medical Officer candidate can demand a salary that’s pegged to the cost of living in Boston, where a lot of the talent is, even if they’re located somewhere with a lower cost of living.

Q: Is diversifying your workforce a specific goal?

ML: We strongly believe diversity drives innovation. And we’ll be recruiting outside Canada soon, so it will continue to grow.

FL: We’re 42 people right now from 10 different countries. Our two independent board members are women, and one is a woman of colour. Diversity reflects who we are, as scientists and people.

Company profile: Immune Biosolutions

Location: Sherbrooke
Employees: 42
Sub-sector: Bio-health

Immune Biosolutions is an early-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, engineering, and development of humanized chicken antibodies that target intractable membrane proteins with validated therapeutic potential.