“Of all the subjects in school, science was always the one I had the most interest in,” Bouchard says. “To me, it was innate – to this day, science just makes sense to me.”
Chemistry, mathematics, biology, physics … Bouchard found them all fascinating and took to them easily, performing well enough in multiple disciplines that he found himself faced with an enviable array of options when it came time to apply to college. So although he was strongly interested in veterinary medicine, he decided to keep his options open – a decision that would prove to be a wise move for the future CEO.
“I applied to everything related to science,” says Bouchard. “Veterinary school, engineering, mathematics, physics, agronomy, chemistry.” With a self-effacing chuckle, he adds: “I got accepted in everything but vet school.” Undaunted, Bouchard, who is French-Canadian by birth, enrolled at the Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, as an engineering student, then reapplied to the veterinary program at the Université de Montréal the following year, gaining admission on the strength of his grades in engineering.
Before entering the veterinary program, Bouchard had assumed he would work for a local private practice as a veterinarian after completing his studies, but as he was exposed to more facets of animal science, his ambitions evolved with his knowledge. Veterinary practice had initially felt like a noble enough career goal, but he quickly became drawn to the idea of making a bigger difference in the world than he felt he could make as a solo veterinarian.
At first, Bouchard pursued this goal by specializing in animal reproduction, specifically dogs and cats. He was fascinated by the impact carefully managed reproduction could have on animal health for generations afterward, and quickly became a sought-after expert in the small animals field. But when he branched out into research using laboratory animals, he realized that his work with these species had the potential to impact not just animal health, but human health as well.
“It became very obvious that if you work on drug development … you can influence the lives of millions of humans and animals,” Bouchard says. “Well – this is probably the most impact I could have in my life.”
Bouchard had a friend who was leaving Sinclair for a position at a pharmaceutical company and recommended Bouchard take his place at the Sinclair Comparative Medical Research Farm (SCMRF) was owned and operated by the University of Missouri. SCMRF was slated to be closed over the next few years. Bouchard accepted the position and spent the next three years learning everything he could about lab animals and medical research, while building relationships and establishing himself in the field. Early during his appointment, Bouchard decided to pursue a career in drug development. Meanwhile, Bouchard was also pursuing a higher education degree.
Bouchard spent two years privatizing Sinclair and rechristened itself Sinclair Research Center. This was possible largely because of the blessing from Dr. Richard Wallace, the active Chancellor at the University of Missouri. The company immediately made the jump to pharmaceutical, device, and pet food diet research and testing, and the first drug they helped bring to market was a hit – an osteoporosis drug used safely by millions of women. Since then, says Bouchard, the company has helped bring “countless” new drugs and devices to the human and veterinary markets.
Asked about his role models and people who inspire him, Bouchard mentions his father and Meir Lazar, alongside Neil Armstrong and Steve Jobs, who he says were “both pioneers in different ways.” But he says what impresses him most about Armstrong and Jobs is not their fame or their accomplishments, but their faith and trust in science, themselves, and the teams they worked with. Both men, he notes, changed the world as we know it today, but they didn’t do it alone. Each depended on hundreds if not thousands of people working together to make their dreams a reality.
“It takes a faith in people and science that’s extraordinary” to be able to accomplish what they did, Bouchard says, “an extreme belief in yourself and the team you lead.”
When asked about the future of the company he leads, and his own personal goals and dreams, Bouchard is ready with his vision: “I would like to see us move beyond therapy to cures,” he says. “To treat people once, and they’ll overcome the [health] problems they have without having to take drugs for the rest of their lives.” Bouchard sees new technologies on the horizon he believes may put that dream within reach. “I think large molecules will give us that,” he says, “like cell therapy, gene transfer, this kind of approach.”
In the meantime, Bouchard says he will continue pushing the company he leads to do its best work every day to make the world a better place. Drug development, he says, presents a unique opportunity to reduce human suffering and improve people’s lives. “When I look back,” he says, “what will make me proud is that the footprint we left behind will be improving humankind.”