“Cell and gene therapy technologies will redefine what we think of as therapeutics. They will usher in an era of individualized medicine, one that focuses on the patient. To do that, they need the right biomaterials. The industry is just beginning to generate this bio-infrastructure — and we’re helping it do that by creating gene-length single-strand DNA, quickly, affordably, and in the quantities needed to help pharmaceutical companies accelerate the development of new therapies.”
From DNA Origami to Tough Tech Startup
"During my Masters in molecular biotechnology, I found a lab that specialized in DNA origami — a method for creating devices on the nanometer-level by using DNA as a building material. I knew right away that was the place where I wanted to pursue my PhD. I love the idea of combining scientific thinking and creativity — the science of design. We are basically a bunch of DNA architects and nano-engineers.
Still, even nano-devices and molecular robots need a supply chain. My job was to customize the production of an essential building material: long single-stranded DNA. First, I supplied the Dietz lab internally and then started shipping it to collaborators at other universities. And that’s what eventually got me hired at MIT — the demand for this specific type of DNA for fundamental research and in cell and gene therapies.
I started working at Mark Bathe’s lab at MIT as a researcher. At his lab, I had the freedom and opportunity to commercialize the technology for gene-length single-strand DNA production. I would have never imagined that there would be such a demand in cell and gene therapy for this kind of material."
The Power of Partnership in the Boston Ecosystem
"Everyone knows that the Boston area is one of the biggest biotech hubs in the U.S. Before moving here I had no idea what that meant on a daily basis. Then you walk through Cambridge and think: there are over 350 biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in this town!
I can meet my industry collaborators for coffee because we are basically neighbors or play pickup with a VC partner. Presumably, I could even deliver product samples personally — on my bike. Looking into the surrounding areas, you see even more potential for growth. Watertown is turning into a new haven for research and development driven by local companies like Cambridge Scientific.
We need both potential customers and partners with in-depth expertise in industrial manufacturing to bring our technology to market. An example of the latter is the New Frontiers Program by MilliporeSigma. It aims to establish strong collaborative relationships with entrepreneurs within academia to accelerate their success as they spin out.
Reading about Boston as a biotech hub is one thing, but experiencing the way people interact and motivate each other to innovate and grow is what makes working here so special."
Learning From Those That Have Done It Before
"There is no shortcut to experience but you also don’t want to enter the valley of death blind-sided. I applied to Blueprint because of the opportunity to directly learn from people who have built Tough Tech startups. Their experience and advice helps you push through the upcoming challenges quickly.
In particular, I was interested in the stretch between focusing on internal innovation and building products for customers right away. No matter what technology you’re working on, facing this challenge is universal. How do you act, once you don’t have the resources to do both? Thinking through such scenarios in advance prepares you for the experience that lies ahead. Doing that together with other participants who are all at a similar stage, was an insanely productive experience."