What was it exactly that brought Melissa Fellner (MBA ’09) to the Rady School of Management in pursuit of an MBA? Was it because of her desire to continue her career in San Diego’s flourishing biotechnology industry? Maybe her devotion to UC San Diego – she holds both an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and a master’s degree in biology from the distinguished southern California UC. Perhaps it was the coveted Lab to Market accelerator that introduces entrepreneurial hopefuls to the ins and outs of launching a business? For Fellner, the choice of where to pursue her MBA was an easy one to make.
After a successful career in clinical research, Fellner found herself looking for the next step in her career. While she was an expert in trial and development, her skillset lacked the business acumen necessary to push innovative products and procedures to the market.
“I had a lot of experience in research, but I wanted to learn more about the business side of things,” she said. “I was really interested in the biotech boom and was fascinated with all the early-stage biotech companies launching right across the road from the Rady School. Being a part of that movement became my next goal, and I knew that in order to pursue it, I needed an MBA.”
Fellner joined the FlexWeekend MBA cohort while working full-time for Vical, a biopharmaceutical drug development company. Between finding time for her work and balancing a challenging courseload, Fellner’s time management skills were put to the test. But succeeding in both her classes and in her job was the confidence boost she needed to take her career to the next level.
“Despite the craziness, it was empowering to be able to juggle both work and school – it really proved to me how capable I was,” she said. “It wasn’t easy, but it showed that I could get things done – and I did.”
After graduating from the Rady School, Fellner accepted a job offer from fellow Rady alum at The Aequitas Group, a healthcare advisory firm. After spending a few years in the consulting industry, she made the move to pursue her passion in the biotech sphere, accepting a Manager Access Services Operations position at biopharmaceutical leader AstraZeneca in 2012.
In her initial position, Fellner was responsible for building out a new program designed for patients requiring specialty drugs for oncology and respiratory diseases. This task was outside of her comfort zone – a complete pivot from her clinical research experience. However, using the skills and tools she gained from her Rady MBA, Fellner was able to build a program called “Access 360” that is now a recognized leader in patient access support and being rolled out globally at AstraZeneca
“My time at Rady was exactly what I needed to be successful,” she said. “Not only did I learn valuable business lessons in how to implement processes, secure funding for projects and how to work with different teams to accomplish a common goal, it gave me the confidence to look at a problem and say, ‘I can figure this out.’”
Her success with the creation and implementation of the successful platform catapulted her career forward, moving up the AstraZeneca ranks. She recently accepted a new position at the company, where she is in charge of leading global consumer marketing strategies for respiratory biologics. Her current project is to build new capabilities and market a breakthrough treatment for severe asthma.
As she continues to thrive in the biotech space, Fellner credits the Rady School for helping her find her dream career trajectory.
“I’m able to think innovatively, and because of that, I’ve been able to set up new systems that support our patients,” she said. “I wanted a career that would give me the ability to help patients, and thanks to my time at Rady, I’ve found the perfect area that allows me to do just that every day.”