Real-Life Alumni: Christina Baladi, '09 B.S., Regulatory Affairs Professional, Agios Pharmaceuticals

Christina Baladi

Christina Baladi graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Genetics.

“One of the biggest falsehoods is that if you have a science-focused major, your only career option is to do research.”

- Christina Baladi, '09 B.S.
by Lily O'Connor-Coates

Christina Baladi received a Bachelor of Science in Genetics 2009. Baladi is a regulatory affairs professional with Agios Pharmaceuticals, of Cambridge, Mass., a research company that develops cellular metabolism-related therapies. While at UC Davis, Christina benefited from unique experiences in networking and scientific knowledge, both of which helped her achieve success.

In her role, Baladi is responsible for bringing new therapies for rare genetic disorders to patients as quickly as possible. She works with health authorities to develop strategies to facilitate accelerated and standard clinical development procedures. The goal of Agios Pharmaceuticals is to make a difference by helping patients find medicines and therapies that will change lives.

Finding the Right Profession in Science

Although she knew she wanted to pursue a career in science, Baladi quickly learned she was not interested in lab work after completing an internship with the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

“When I was a sophomore, I thought I knew exactly what I was going to do,” Baladi said. She initially planned to use her genetics majors and nutrition minor to help to fortify crops to address world hunger.

“However, as I got more exposure to working in labs through my internships, I wasn't entirely sure that lab work was for me,” she said. “That's when I began my search for a career opportunity that would allow me to work outside of the lab, but still make an impact in the lives of others.”

By talking to professors and utilizing her resources on campus, Baladi was able to narrow down a career path she wanted to pursue. During her last year at UC Davis, Baladi networked with various biotech and pharmaceutical contacts regarding potential internship and job opportunities.

She was able to identify and secure an internship in regulatory affairs at Genentech, Inc.Baladi immersed herself in regulatory intelligence work, building a database of precedent approvals for different therapies. “This allowed me to build a solid foundation to understand what health authorities considered as the basis for drug approvals,” she said.

 It was through that internship that she found her passion for drug development, a move which helped launch her career in regulatory affairs.

A huge part of Baladi finding her job and her passion came from the realization that going into a science field did not necessarily mean conducting lab work. 

“One of the biggest falsehoods is that if you have a science-focused major, your only career option is to do research,” Baladi said. “I would like to encourage all students who are passionate about genetics, but still unsure as to whether they want to pursue a science-focused career, to not hesitate and get their degree.”

Baladi realized her genetics degree could be applicable to many different roles that didn't focus so deeply on the physical science of genetics. She continues to benefit from having that knowledge base to provide background and understand her work.

Unique Education, Unique Opportunities

The skills acquired at UC Davis helped prepare Baladi for her career. At the time she attended UC Davis, it was one of the few schools that offered a specialized major in genetics (today the program is known as Genetics and Genomics, as most other schools only offered biology degrees. 

“I believe it was this unique opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge of genetics that differentiated me from others in similar fields, and ultimately, allowed me to secure a wonderful job right out of school,” Baladi said.

Baladi’s time on campus was spent challenging and improving herself within her academic and social life. She made the Dean’s Honor List, participated in the UC Davis Honors Challenge, and joined the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, where she remains active. These accomplishments, along with her internships enabled Baladi to make the most of her four years at UC Davis.

She encourages current students to make connections from day one. “I didn't really get comfortable until my sophomore year when I really began to love UC Davis for everything it offered,” Baladi said. “I’ve always regretted not taking full advantage of that first year. If I could go back today, that's definitely something I would do differently.”

Despite her busy schedule, Baladi finds time to spend with family and friends, cooking and trying new food. She enjoys hiking, running, camping and exploring the great outdoors.