NSF I-Corps Team 1656 BioProcess Optimizer

NSF I-Corps Team 1656 BioProcess Optimizer

Over the course of 7 weeks this summer, BSEL members Dr. Ana Quiroga and Esther Chen along with their business mentor, Nakia Melecio, from Georgia Tech’s ATDC traveled all around the US and Switzerland to visit biotech hubs as a part of the national NSF I-Corps (D.C. node). The aim of this intense program is to get academic researchers out of their comfort zone and into the field to evaluate the commercial potential of their technology. Our efforts paid off and we completed 212 (!) interviews and identified the following customer segments: manufacturing of biomolecules for human therapeutics, viruses for gene therapies, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) for tissue regeneration and immunomodulation, T cells for CAR-T therapies, animal vaccines, and clean meat production. Our team interviewed a wide variety of professionals, from machine learning experts, to upstream process engineers, to members of the CDC, and clinicians. From these numerous discussions, we learned about the pains each industry faces and how our technology could potentially fill the gap. Moving forward, we will continue to learn about our customer segment and continue to work towards bringing our technology to the market.

We would like to thank all of those who supported us throughout the journey, including friends, family, BSEL members, and especially Drs. Mantalaris and Panoskaltsis for allowing us to seize this opportunity and make the most of this incredible experience.

New Member – Esther Chen

Esther Chen has chosen to pursue her PhD in the joint Biomedical Engineering department of Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University with us at the Biological Systems Engineering Lab. Esther received a BSc in Chemical Engineering from ETH Zurich, Switzerland. During her undergraduate studies she worked in the field of green chemistry. Her semester project was on kinetic studies of ring-opening polymerization of polyethylene furanoate (PEF) using bio-compatible initiators. Before graduating, she also completed a 6-month internship in API manufacturing at Janssen-Cilag (Johnson&Johnson). Continuing with her Master’s in Chemical and Bioengineering at ETH, Esther deepened her knowledge on process design and simulation. She completed her thesis in the group of Prof. Klavs Jensen at MIT (Cambridge, MA) on the continuous end-to-end synthesis of ciprofloxacin hydrochloride. Once back in Zurich, she worked in the Macromolecular Engineering Lab led by Prof. Mark Tibbitt on the preparation of photodegradable hydrogels.

To join the Biological Systems Engineering Lab led by Prof. Mantalaris and Dr. Panoskaltsis, she moved to Atlanta, GA. She will join the BSEL as a Student Research Assistant starting in April. Her research will be focused on the development of a 3D model of leukemia.