Science entrepreneurship could be the path for cancer prevention

By Iciar Fernandez

Seevasant Indran is a PhD student working on a project that studies mutations, changes and behavior of normal cells that might become carcinogenic. As someone who prefers to do science rather than business, he turned to eHub to find out how he can transform his research into a commercial service.

  • Tell us a bit about yourself

I am from Malaysia, from Kuala Lumpur. Regarding my background, I did my bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology, and then I was a research assistant back home in Malaysia, mainly to gauge if I wanted to do a PhD. After a while, I decided I did and I came here to UBC to do my PhD in Genome Science and Technology.

Seevasant Indran

  • What is your idea and how did you come up with it?

My thesis works on variant functionalization; we look at somatic variations and try to figure out a way to profile these variants. Because most of the variants in tumor suppressors and oncogenes are ‘variants of unknown significance’, we have no idea of whether they are harmful or not. So, we are trying to bring this technology as a service for commercialization purposes.

  • What made you reach out to eHub?

I started looking at any programs that offered entrepreneurship services, and while doing this I found eHub.

Being a science student, I am not familiar with the business end of things. I had actually tried out business before starting my PhD and I didn’t particularly enjoy it, I would rather do science. So I have no experience whatsoever in the business world.

Sometimes an idea will sound logical in the science world, but it is just not a good market fit. So, eHub provided me with this great opportunity, and a lot of tools to learn about business aspects that may not be obvious to me. I feel like the biggest help I’ve received is direction, there is a lot more to marketing than may be obvious and eHub provides you with that direction.

  • Since then has your idea come to life or is it in the process of doing so?

At this point, we have a platform for one gene and we are looking at two other genes. We are a yeast lab so we see our results in yeast and compare them to other animal models. But these are already well established and there is actually a paper coming out on that.

  • What are the three key things that you learnt from your experience?
  1. Never underestimate the amount of times you need to optimize something, the value of optimization. Particularly in the science field, 95% of times that you do things, they won’t work. So, the way you improve your success rate is by optimizing again, and again, and again.
  2. Time management. Doing a PhD teaches me how important is time management, back home it’s easy because I have people around, so I don’t have to do everything myself. And as you grow, you also need to think a bit about the future, how to monetize what you do.
  3. Enjoying activities outside the academic world. This is also related to time management. While I have gotten good at managing my time to get things done, sometimes I forget to allocate time to do things that I enjoy such as soccer or music.

Do you want to know what other students at UBC are doing? Come to our RBC Get Seeded event on November 18, 2019. Students from 15 teams will present their ideas to win the seed money to fund their business. More information and tickets here.

Do you also have an idea and don’t know where to start? Check the eHub page to find out more.

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