Jamie Schwarzbach of Natera takes us behind the scenes of marketing in the biotech industry
By: Nina Notman, special to C&EN
“Sometimes we forget that chemists are actually very creative,” says Jamie Schwarzbach, who is using the creativity she honed in the organic chemistry lab to devise marketing campaigns for the diagnostics company Natera.
Marketing as a potential career choice first appeared on Schwarzbach’s radar when she was a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her master’s in chemistry was focused on synthetic organic chemistry and peptide synthesis, Schwarzbach says, but the university encouraged science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduate students to take business courses. She enjoyed them so much she decided to get an MBA as well.
Schwarzbach earned her master’s in 2013 and her MBA in 2015. She relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area and in January 2016 joined the nutraceutical company ecoNugenics. “That was my first postgraduate marketing role,” she says. Schwarzbach moved to the synthetic DNA manufacturer Twist Bioscience in November 2017 and took on her current role as Natera’s brand manager for oncology in September 2019.
Natera develops and commercializes cell-free DNA analysis technology. “It started off in the noninvasive prenatal testing space and has since expanded into a number of different markets,” Schwarzbach says. Natera has adapted its technology to detect residual disease, to monitor for early signs of solid cancer recurrence, and more.
Schwarzbach has been brought on board to raise market awareness of Natera’s cancer-monitoring product, Signatera. “I'll be focusing on our marketing campaigns as we increase awareness of Signatera in the colorectal cancer space,” she says. For example, she says, “I’ll be working with various teams to create materials that help educate the physicians on the test. The materials will give them an honest depiction of what the test does based on clinical data and how it can help their patients, hopefully avoiding unnecessary chemotherapy treatment or catching the recurrence early.”
You couldn't get along at work without . . .
Notepad, pen, and cold-brew coffee.
What's the best part of your job?
I love that I'm part of a company that is helping change the management of disease worldwide. I love that I have really knowledgeable coworkers. I also love that this job has given me new challenges that I haven't faced elsewhere.
What's the most exciting marketing campaign you've worked on over your career?
The launch of NGS [next-generation sequencing] Target Enrichment Solutions from Twist Bioscience. It was the start of my Twist career, and I got to help with creating the marketing campaign, launching at a huge event, and then postmarketing efforts. It was so exciting.
What was your favorite childhood TV advertising campaign?
The Super Bowl always has really great ads. Memorable ones for me are the Budweiser campaigns, Geico’s cave people story line, and the funny M&M characters.
Are there any parts of being a marketer that were unexpected?
I never realized how technical, analytical, and numbers based marketing is. When I was a chemist and I thought of marketing, I thought of old-school advertising—fun, clever videos on the TV or adverts in the newspaper. What I've learned is that marketing has evolved, and now it's really about targeting a very specific subset of people with highly personalized content.
What's the best professional advice you’ve received?
Not to take criticism too personally and to be accountable for your mistakes.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m passionate, quirky, driven, and (sometimes) funny.
Who is your scientific hero?
Marie Curie. When I was younger, I would read books about her and was mesmerized by all that she accomplished in the face of diversity. She was one of the reasons I decided to pursue a degree in science.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Snowboarding, spinning, baking, and road tripping.