Alexion and BioPath opens door to opportunities in the medical field


Jessica GuerrucciReporter

New research and possible career paths for students are being introduced through the Alexion and BioPath seminar series, which is an opportunity to connect students with scientists from local companies.

Girish Nallur, CEO of Vistara Bioscience, was the featured speaker for March, who gave a presentation regarding proteomics, or the study of proteins, and how they are organized into functional networks.

Candy Hwang, a chemistry professor who coordinated the event, said they’ve had five speakers from different companies so far at events where students got to learn about different topics mostly pertaining to biology and chemistry.

“Students, any student really, has the opportunity to see what it’s like to work there, what they do, what the jobs are like, and we sponsor a lunch so students can meet with the speaker and talk to them about what their experience has been like,” said Hwang.

Hwang said the goal is for some of these companies to take students as interns, or that through meeting these speakers an internship opportunity may present itself. She said the goal is to make students into competitive applicants when they are applying for jobs.

In Nallur’s presentation, “Common Design Principles and Universality of Complex Systems – Proteins, the Internet, Computer Systems or Society,” students heard about the research he is doing at his company and their approach.

When starting a business, Nallur said people need to be able to show that they have something new, different, and valuable, or something that can become valuable when it is developed further.

“It’s a passion. There are people who never want to do that in their lives, and then there are others like me who can’t go to bed at night, thinking ‘I need to make that thing happen,” said Nallur.

Todd Ryder, a chemistry professor who does research in organic and medicinal chemistry, said he thought Nallur’s presentation was amazing. Ryder said the approach they take is more complicated but gives a more accurate picture of how things work.

“The way a drug works is that a molecule interacts with a target, and historically we have just considered these targets in isolation,” said Ryder. “Clearly, that’s not the right way to think about it because these protein targets interact with part of pathways that involve other targets, so the approach that this company is taking is to look at this as whole, as a network.”

Mikayla Mclau, a chemistry major, said she wants to continue doing drug discovery in the future and that the information from Nallur’s presentation opens a door as to what kind of targets to look at when assigning a drug.

“You know a lot about drugs and drug targets, but it was interesting to see a network of proteins because that isn’t taught as much,” said Mclau.

Melissa Palma, who is also a chemistry major and hopes to be a doctor, said the presentation allowed her to look at things from a different perspective.

“In drug discovery we talked more about small molecules, and this was seeing the network,” said Palma. “So, it’s interesting how you take a step back and look at the science and then apply something in a different way to try to get the same results.

Photo Credit: Jessica Guerrucci

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