I recently spoke with our user Ethan Perlstein, whose one-of-a-kind independent lab is flipping traditional drug discovery on its head. Check out how he is changing the paradigm of traditional research, pharmacology, and more below.
Q: What is the focus of the Perlstein Lab?
Ethan: The Perlstein Lab is focused on personalized orphan drug discovery. We take a two-pronged approach. We first create a primordial disease model for a given patients’ mutation; that involves taking a change in the DNA that you see in the disease and putting it into the model organisms.
We use yeast, worms, flies, and fish that have ancestral versions of that gene. We can use those models to do drug discovery, and we can validate the hits that we get in patient derived cells of the same genotype. So it’s a closed system where everything is personalized from the outset.
Q: How did it come into existence? What was the progression from your very first crowdfunding experience to starting your own lab?
Ethan: The science behind it has been incubating a long time, since I was in grad school, so it’s been a ten-year process. Screening using a model organism is something I did in grad school, so it’s existed for awhile. As a post-doc, I took some of those scientific concepts and drilled down deeper, so that put me in a good position to have a scientific foundation.
I spent the next 18 months leaving academia and navigating the business side. Last fall, I put together a business plan, had it reviewed by business people, improved my plan, and by the end of 2014 I began fundraising.
The team started to come together in early April. The lab started to come together in terms of equipment and structure in mid-April. And now we have a fully functional lab that has yeast, worms, and flies, and it’s off to the races. Read the rest of this entry »
BioSynthetic Artificial Cornea of Eyegenix LLC.
Derek Duan is a Principal Investigator at Eyegenix, a small biotech in Hawaii that is creating a unique way to cure corneal blindness.
How are they doing it? By creating a synthetic, transplantable cornea that promotes tissue regeneration.
I spoke with Derek about their novel approach to curing blindness, the biotech scene in Hawaii, and his experience using Science Exchange. Check out our conversation below.
Q: Tell me about Eyegenix.
Derek: We’re a biotech company located in Honolulu, Hawaii. We’re doing research and development on the most advanced artificial cornea in the world. This is a biosynthetic polymer based product.
We’re very excited to put our artificial corneas into the market as soon as possible, because there are millions of people globally that could be cured with this product.
Q: How did the company start?
Derek: Dr. Hank C.K. Wuh, who was born in Hawaii and educated in the mainland, founded the company in 2012. He wanted to come back and serve Hawaii. He’s making use of the island as an intersection of Asia, Australia and America to be a center for biotech research. That’s why he decided to come back and fund his company. Read the rest of this entry »
Hannah Margolis prepping yeast cells for her project at Elko High School.
Recently I interviewed an extremely unique Science Exchange user, Hannah Margolis. Hannah is a high school student studying the effect of stress on Sirtuin 2 proteins, which play a role in aging. Hannah won first place at the Elko County Science Fair and competed at Intel International’s National Science and Engineering Fair!
When I talked to Hannah, I was absolutely awestruck by her intelligence, initiative, and passion for knowledge. Check out how she approached this research problem below.
Q: How did you get the idea to look into the effect of stress?
Hannah: Last year I did a physics project, which involved blowing stuff up with alpha particles. When that was over I was looking into cosmic rays, but I found out you can’t do anything cool with cosmic rays. However, while I was looking into it I learned that people who are exposed to more cosmic rays are reported to live longer. That led to this idea called radiation hormesis – the idea that low amounts of radiation are good for you. I thought that was really weird.
I kept looking into it, and I found that any type of stress is supposed to reduce your chance of getting cancer and getting sick. It sounds great, but nobody uses it because we don’t know how it works. It’s a little bit scary to tell people to go subject themselves to low amounts of radiation – people wouldn’t do that. I wanted to try to figure out why it works, so we can someday implement it in society, because it’s a great proactive treatment. Read the rest of this entry »
Gordon Hardy in the lab at Hunt Imaging.
For this week’s story I spoke with Gordon Hardy who works on something most of us don’t think about very often – developing new inks and toners. More specifically, he is creating a new ink to print the small numbers on the bottom of checks. The problem is complex and interesting, check out his story below.
Q: What’s your role at Hunt Imaging?
Gordon: Mostly formulation and material analysis, but even customer support. It’s a small company, so you really have to do everything
Q: What did you use Science Exchange for?
Gordon: It’s an inkjet project. We have expertise in magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) ink here. It’s those funny looking characters that are printed on the bottom of checks. Those are read magnetically, so the ink itself has magnetic particles embedded in it. MICR toners are well established and with the current growth in high speed production inkjet printers there is a need for MICR inkjet, but it’s not an easy thing to create because you are trying to make iron float in water.
You can do it if you make the iron small enough, but if you make it too small it loses its magnetic strength. The problem is, you make it smaller and smaller and it gets less and less magnetic. So you have to make a different type of magnet, that’s not just iron, but something that’s a little stronger. You need to make them on the order of twenty nanometers; that’s what we’re working on now.
The particle size and even the particle shape is important. For our project on Science Exchange, the Nano Research Facility conducted TEM to look at the size and shape of the iron and other oxide particles we’ve generated. Read the rest of this entry »
Shawn Carbonell at his small lab space in San Francisco. Photo from Jackson Solway’s Startup Portrait.
Have you ever had a big idea that burned a hole in your brain? Plagued you day after day? Well, that’s exactly what happened to Shawn Carbonell, the CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of OncoSynergy.
Although he had spent the last 18 years prepping for a career as an academic neurosurgeon, he couldn’t stop thinking about an idea he had that could help fight cancer. He had many options available to him, but he risked it all because he wanted to get a drug to the clinic in the quickest way possible.
I talked with Shawn a few weeks ago, I was impressed not only with the passion he has embodied to develop his cancer therapies, but also the speed at which he has done so (P.S. I’ve visited Shawn’s lab in San Francisco, and can say, hands-down, it is the most efficient lab I’ve ever visited). Read the rest of this entry »
I recently met with Gayathri Gopalakrishnan. She is a Research Scientist in the Environmental Program at The Space Science Institute, a half-virtual institute of researchers based in Boulder, Colorado but located nationally.
Gayathri is an unusual and enlightening mix of curious, creative, and proactive. It is these assets combined with the unique atmosphere at the Space Science Institute that make her research and results so powerful.”I like to have my fingers in multiple pipes. It’s more fun when you can play with things on a really tiny scale, translate lab experiments to the field and run simulations of whole systems,” said Gayathri. Read the rest of this entry »