Bioentrepreneurship alumnus Adam builds the first Slovak Health Technology Assessment agency

Name: Adam Marťák
Degree: Master’s Programme in Bioentrepreneurship (2018)
Current role: Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic, State Counsellor
Based: Bratislava, Slovakia

KI-alumn profile photo
KI alumnus Adam Martak Photo: Viktor Seč

I really appreciated how well-equipped KI is for translating results of the cutting-edge research conducted on campus from the bench to the real world.

Adam Marťák

What is your educational background?

Prior coming to KI to study Bioentrepreneurship, I studied molecular biology at the University of Sheffield in the UK. I spent part of the summer after graduation on an exchange programme at the Fudan University in China and worked for two years as a Field Application Specialist. I have also worked as a Product Manager in molecular diagnostics for a distributor of medical devices and research tools in Austria and countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Why did you choose KI?

After a couple of years of experience on the commercial side of life sciences under my belt, I felt like it would be a great time to enhance my skillset with the business administration acumen. I thought further education in business would be useful working on the commercial side of life sciences, whether working on my own projects, for a consultancy, in the industry or for a regulatory body.

I knew of only a few programmes focusing on life sciences from the commercial perspective - Bioentrepreneurship at KI was one of them. The reputation of KI as a world-leading medical university definitely influenced my decision.

What was your experience like at KI?

My time at KI was pretty great. Retrospectively, I really appreciated how well-equipped KI is for translating results of the cutting-edge research conducted on campus from the bench to the real world. Scientific commercial expertise (KI Innovations) and capital (Karolinska Development) -  it’s all there - which, as I have learned from my later experiences, is more an exception than a rule in Europe.

I really appreciated class trips we were able to make, whether a boat cruise to Talinn or weekends spent at the cabin by the lake at Solvik. Night life of Stockholm is pretty rich too.  

Stockholm is a great place to be professionally and personally. In the end, I have decided to move back to central Europe mainly due to personal reasons but still keep in touch with many people I got to know in Sweden.

What is your current role? 

In my current role I am a member of the core team building the first Slovak Health Technology Assessment (HTA) agency. HTA agencies are key regulatory bodies acting at the interface of policy, academia and industry. Their output is utilized by policy makers to make informed decisions on pricing and reimbursement of drugs, medical devices or other medical interventions.  

We are a multidisciplinary team currently working on spinning the agency out of the Ministry of Health whilst also conducting HTA itself. I am able to amalgamate the expertise I acquired so far for what I would consider greater good.  

Describe a day on the job. 

As one could expect in the current pandemic situation, we are pretty busy. It could be anything from reviewing a drug reimbursement dossier, legislative or planning activities or a plethora of different ad-hoc (also COVID-19 related) projects. Building an HTA agency is one of the key healthcare milestones set by the current government and we do get a lot of local support as well as support from other HTA bodies from around the world. For instance, I have recently personally contributed to the qualitative assessment of procured syringes and needles utilized in the COVID-19 vaccination.

How did your studies at KI help your future career?

My studies at KI have not only provided me with a degree from a top-notch university, great professional and personal network but also a very unique expertise. I remember in one of our last classes a representative of one of the companies some of my classmates have done their practical placements at told us:  ”I don’t think you realize how good you are.” The mix of scientific and commercial acumen and people who are able to use both sides effectively are actually very rare. This is definitely a unique selling point of Bioentrepreneurship graduates.

What are your future aspirations?

Right now, I am channelling all my energy to lift the HTA agency off the ground and get it up and running. From my point of view, it is the way of paying some of my debt back to the country where I was raised. I am honored that I get to contribute in this way. In the future, I definitely see myself working in the health care and life science space.  

The 21st century is going to be a century of biology. Unfortunately, we can see not such a cheerful manifestation of this all around the world right now. The silver lining of the current ongoing pandemic is that it has created what I would consider biotech-related disruptive events,  which are going to forever change the industry and how younger generations perceive life sciences in general.

What is your advice to current students?

While the course curriculum is very intriguing, and you get to experience many different work settings during your practical placements, definitely explore what Stockholm and KI have to offer also beyond the course itself. KI has great collaborations with SSES, and there are many open lectures on a wide range of scientific topics at KI as well. Network, network, network - it really is the key.