University teaches students to study a topic and identify gaps in the body of existing research and determine areas in…More
Eric Bressler ’14
“There’s definitely a place in the world for crazy/outlandish research ideas, but you need to keep one eye on practicality.”
Translating solutions from laboratories to the real world is one of the major challenges facing biotech and drug development companies.
“A lot of people are looking for solutions in the lab that could never be translated to the clinic, even if the science worked perfectly, but they’d never know unless they talk to the end users or the decision makers in their field,” says Eric Bressler, BS 2014.
Since graduating, Bressler has worked as a Research Specialist at AsclepiX Therapeutics. The company was founded by Dr. Jordan Green and Dr. Aleksander Popel as part of Johns Hopkins’ FastForward accelerator and uses bioinformatics and systems biology methods for next-gen drug development technology.
“I heard about AsclepiX really just out of chance. Orla [Wilson] happened to invite Tom Fekete, the Director of Corporate Partnerships at INBT, to one of our seminars, and he told me Jordan Green was looking to fill a research position at AsclepiX. The stars sort of aligned as they were working on a project that combined most of my research areas,” said Bressler.
A similar aligning of the stars occurred when AsclepiX offered Bressler the opportunity to participate in I-Corps at NIH. The nine-week program is a boot camp aimed at helping NIH-funded researchers evaluate their scientific discoveries for commercial potential.
“We knew the program came with some of the best guidance you could ask for in terms of business development at the pre-clinical stage. We were only a four person company at the time though, and our co-founders were very busy with their jobs as Hopkins professors and with a much larger grant application, so this one fell to me.”
During the boot camp, teams spent mornings presenting their pitches, afternoons interviewing experts in their fields, and evenings in workshops and preparing for the next day.
“The opening three days of the program stand out as some of the most exciting and stressful I’ve had since graduating,” Bressler said. “We were up at 7am and then working until about 2-3am each night.”
Despite the stress and exhaustion, Bressler views the experience at the boot camp and AsclepiX as eye opening. At the annual meeting of the Society of Neuro-Oncology, Bressler and Niranjan Pandey, Director of R&D at AsclepiX, attended a special event focused on translating new therapies for glioblastoma into the clinic. They witnessed a debate over which pre-clinical model represented the “gold standard.”
“Since we’re collecting data that’s supposed to look convincing to both the FDA and potential investors, it was exactly the kind of debate we needed to hear. That experience showed us that you need to venture outside of the lab and keep your ears open wider than your mouth to find out what it is people are actually searching for.”
- Biotech Boot Camp (Nature, Vol. 519, Issue 7544, 26 March 2015)