The effective training of upcoming scientists and researchers requires collaboration with practitioners, clinicians, and patients and a holistic overview.
Vivek Kumar, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA, works at the interface of biomolecular engineering, materials science, and synthetic peptide chemistry.
Read more in Research Features
Read more on the lab’s website: kumarlab
Image Source: Adobe Stock Images / Kasto
Hello, I’m will. Welcome to research pod.
In market terms, pharmaceuticals and biologic companies
represent a growth opportunity like few others.
Vaccines alone have had over 350% revenue growth
between 2007 and 2018, well before the COVID-19 pandemic.
So how can a researcher behind the bench today think about broaching bits?
Professor Vivek Kumar from the New Jersey Institute of Technology,
is an advocate for and success story of developing companies from a research backing.
We talked today about funding. Finding those angles to commercialize
your research and what he sees as key developments that
could revolutionize both business and technology.
Thanks very much for your time in joining us today f
or my own information and for everyone listening at home.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself, some of your personal
and academic background and how you’re managing to kind of
bridge the worlds of academia and business all at once?
Definitely. Again, my name is Vivek Kumar.
I am an associate professor of biomedical engineering
at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and here at NJIT in my research lab,
we innovate new biomaterials based drugs.
So what’s unique and interesting about this is that these materials
that we make out of proteins, these materials that we make,
activate cell receptors, so they’re classified as drugs anyway.
So part of doing all of this is encouraging young minds to come up
with these neat ideas to regenerate tissue, treat different diseases.
We even had a therapeutic against SARS too.
but another aspect of that is you come up with these ideas.
How do you take them to market? Not just market.
How do you get them to treat someone like the dream of
someone like me who went to school for bioengineering,
undergrad bioengineering, Graduate School, got my PhD.
I went to Northwestern, undergrad, Georgia Tech for Graduate School.
I worked with the surgeon Elliot Heikoff, who then moves up to
Beth Israel Deaconess, part of Harvard Medical School, where I finished up my PhD.
The short postdoctoral stint there and then at Rice University.
I did another postdoc where I got into protein engineering.
Anyway, the dream of someone like me,
a biomedical engineer, is to take something we’ve come up with,
we’ve invented and put it into human beings to treat some disease
and human beings and as a part of that, we invent these technologies,
file intellectual property, patents and things like that.
Published papers, our currency, right, papers and grants,
and academia that we try to translate them using.
Startups using seed stage small idea based companies
and one of the challenges with this is how do you get money?
How do you get people to run these high tech, you know,
complex engineering projects and try to gain traction.
So it’s really it’s been a tremendous adventure over the
past six years as a professor and 10 years before that training
to get to this stage doing research and it has been
a really interesting adventure on how we can, you know,
develop ideas and make them at the seed stage.
Startups and go out there and pitch try to get
venture capital investment or Angel investment with many hats I wear
to move technologies towards the clinic and I think
one of the greatest things and one of the greatest experiences
in all of this is you learn so many ways to fail.
Both from academia, all the way to pitching to.
VC’s to Angel investors and as a part of that,
you really learn how healthcare and medicine is practiced. How?
Healthcare Technologies gets implemented and taken towards
the market towards the clinic and there are so many factors,
so many push and pull factors that you couldn’t even imagine
influence how much uptake there is for a drug or a therapeutic,
which has been a fun challenge but learning as well.
Yes, I mean, you highlighted some of the many steps
just in the academic development, let alone and then thinking
actually there might be some business, there might be some money
in this and picking that up as a profession.
I suppose to look back on all of that, if you were to be able
to send a message back to your younger self and tell you know,
a fresh postgraduate, you one thing would it be about the business
or about the academic sides, or do you think it would
even be prepared for everything that you’ve undertaken
since that first degree, let alone all the ones that followed?
So I think you know the bachelors, I did my PhD, the postdoctoral.
Variants all of those were building blocks, right?
Like I always think back to myself.
Why did I have to learn calculus and linear algebra
and all those things back in my high school and college?
I never used that in my daily life.
To be fair, every now and then I do, and it’s all these tools
and the struggles going through those that I have learned,
the resilience and perseverance to take that next step.
Also it’s things that you might use and it’s important tools
to have to approach these different problems.
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself what I tell
all the students I advise today, which is go out and explore.
I don’t think I made the mistake of not exploring enough.
I think I was a little scatterbrained in my approach.
I think I could have been more focused in my approach of exploration and.
Sounds somewhat, I don’t know, oxymoronic, right focus exploration.
But I tell my students if you want to be a physician,
if you want to get a PhD, if you want to go into healthcare
or any different aspect of any career, go speak to someone
who does it every day, right? Go speak to a clinician, not just a surgeon;
not just a PCP primary Physician or GP?
Go speak to psychiatrists. Go speak to someone
who works with Pediatrics.
Go speak to someone. Works in, you know,
underserved populations. Go speak to a private clinic.
Get a full range of perspectives, because I’ll tell you this:
One of the lessons I learned by speaking not just to physicians,
but speaking to patients who have debilitating blindness.
Right condition called Wet age-related macular degeneration,
diabetic retinopathy as well. One of the leading causes of blindness
in people above the age of 50.
Five too many blood vessels on the retina.
You inject drugs to kill the blood vessels.
The biggest challenge is not injecting drugs into the eye.
No, no, no, because what is that the biggest problem for those patients?
These elderly patients is inconveniencing their son or daughter
to take them to the clinic because they can’t drive there
and they can’t drive back, so they have to take time out of their
children’s lives to usher them to the clinic and to figure something out for that.
That’s a big innovation.
So our goal there was to figure out, can we develop
a long term release solution for six months instead of monthly injections, right?
That is the key innovation. It’s not can we find
a better antiandrogenic drugs, it’s not. Can we find a new molecular tart?
Can we ease the burden of the patient population
and those are lessons that you cannot learn unless you have
conversations with people in the field that you hope to get into.
So if you want to be an optomology, just go speak to someone
who’s suffering from blindness due to diabetic and apathy.
Go speak to a patient advocate. Go speak to the clinician.
Go speak to the pharmacy benefits manager.
Very short. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to explore
and learn as many different aspects of the field as possible,
because otherwise just not making very informed decisions.
Well, you mentioned the lessons that you pass on to your students
there and that I suppose all comes under the umbrella of the Kumar lab.
Could you give us maybe a quick tour of what happens there,
the developments that go into not just the drug design and devices,
but the tissue engineering, the protein engineering that you mentioned?
And I suppose the teaching materials and the teaching experience?
So in addition to doing research, I teach as well.
I teach an undergraduate advanced biomaterials class,
and in that class we talk about different applications and materials
specific to my research lab where I spend most of my time in terms of advising my study.
You know we do drug design, we look at normal receptors,
we use complex computer programs, some of the gaming computers
that gamers love, we buy those because they run
computational simulations really, really well.
Graphics cards, GPU power, right, graphical processing, unit power.
So we have some pretty cool computers in the lab where we do drug design.
All the way to synthesizing them, we have peptide synthesizers,
so there’s a lot of, like safety training we do in our lab to make sure
students are safe with the different equipment we use, but also.
So I’d like to think we trained translational scientists, right?
So not only do we synthesize materials that make scaffolds
that we can implant, look at tissue processes, look at localized drug release,
localized tissue regeneration, wound healing.
Stuff like that, not just that but also.
Teaching this idea of hey, you know, if you have an idea.
If you want to treat a certain kind of disease that
doesn’t have a treatment right now. What is the gap in the field, right?
Like let’s say this is new receptor that no one is targeted.
That’s a gap, right? Let’s figure out how to target that.
So all the way from computational design ideation to
implementation to doing efficacy studies in rodents in canines.
Small, large animal models.
In vitro in Petri dishes, synthesis, characterization, materials generation, testing.
What I hope to do with my students is train them in this
full gamut of being, a translational scientist, having the tools, skills,
ability, and maybe even getting their hands went in all the way from ideation,
computational peptide design, in silico on a computer all the way
to making it and testing it to see whether what you came up with actually works.
And that’s something that we’re very excited about
and each and everyone of those because it’s new intellectual property,
we try to file patents and we try to get novel claims
on what these intelligently designed novelly designed materials can do.
Now I’ll come back to the kind of delineations between
biology and business in a second.
but it sounds like straddling the world of biology business,
but also the what a lot of people going to be hearing about,
if not immediately, then very soon about massive data processing
that can be done with artificial intelligence, machine learning that,
you know, coming up with ChatGPT prompts come up with a new story or to come up with.
Any text based ideas? That’s one thing,
but to then be able to scattergun approach 1001
different atomic combinations of 1001 different molecules at once.
Like you’re straddling not just the two worlds of biology
and business there, but computational science as well.
Does it ever get tiring having to learn something new about
the bleeding edge of everything every day?
Oh my God, no. So coming back to exactly the question
you asked me at the beginning, right.
It is a toolbox.
That every day is growing bigger and is being enriched
and I cannot think of a better time to be doing science than today.
And then yesterday, right, because ChatGPT is great.
Is a great tool to start asking some questions.
Now. The complexity of those questions.
Starts to get to a point where you need quantum computing.
So not only am I excited about AI and ML, artificial intelligence
and machine learning to help me think about how to approach
these problems, but quantum computing can now help answer
those problems and let me explain your classical computer.
The computer we’re talking about, right?
The computer – And so use every day your phone.
What have you. It runs data on logic gates on your typical
classical computing and it works. It does calculations pretty quickly,
but when you have to guess what kind of peptide protein
sequence binds to a receptor.
Each and every peptide has 20 in general,
commonly occurring 20 possible combinations.
If you have a 10 peptide long sequence, it’s 10 to the 20 combinations.
More stars in the universe.
Right. So 10 to the 20 combinations which will take you till the end
of time to start guessing if all of them fit. So now you’ve got to use
some kind of computational power to start guessing these mean
ridiculous numbers, which I don’t.
Know the word for right.
Combinations. You cannot do that with the classical computer.
And just slightly better with those graph GPUs I was telling you.
Right. But with a quantum computer you can start doing these insane calculations.
You can start calculating these numbers combinations which are so intractable, right?
One of the same reasons that when people first started talking
about quantum computing like Oh no, security is in jeopardy
because now you can guess any security key because there are so many combinations.
But this can guess, right, in the same way quantum computers
could solve all the bitcoins out there in like a couple of hours
as opposed to 40 years. You know what I mean, anyway.
And getting lost in that space, the point I’m trying to make is as IBM
as Google as all these companies are making one 28250 whatever
bit quantum computers. Once we get quantum computing up the scale,
we can use the algorithms in AI and ML to start.
Capitalizing on quantum computing that gets better,
what will fit the receptor? Long story short, we can make
designer drugs and designer materials my focus materials very,
very quickly and very, very efficiently. In the next 5 to 10 years.
That’s gonna revolution.
Well, I think that the potential there and the partnerships
that are going to be required to make that potential become
a reality hopefully along the kind of lines that we’re seeing
here and not just, you know, liquid metal T1 thousands coming
to kill us all in our sleep or something like that is very recently
well until recently was sci-fi, it’s now Bleeding Edge.
That could materialize over the next 5 to 10 years for people
who have been working in universities in labs for the last maybe 1020 years.
That’s going to seem possibly big and scary as a change and
like doing anything that is not the lab work in front of you can
be a big and scary change and it sounds like you have been
embracing big and scary change every step along the way.
Well, COVID taught me that right so.
COVID happened three years ago from March and April of 2020.
I was told my lab has to shut down, as was everybody else.
Everybody had to shut down so the only thing we could do is one of two things.
Either work on COVID right, because then you can get people in the lab
to work or do computational work, right? I mean, there’s many things can do,
but those are two big things that folks like need could do.
Right. So we did both. So we came up with an idea.
So I told you about proteins, we work on proteins.
One of the proteins in your body is collagen. And the way collagen
Works as your cell makes collagen and it self assembles into a rope into a fiber.
That fiber self assembles into tissue, right?
You get very strong strength, bone, skin and everything
because proteins self assemble. They come together
on their own by collagen. Our proteins self assemble as well.
So our peptides form beta sheets, they form antiparallel beta sheets.
They form fibers and they form hydro dose. So with self assembly
we ask the question can we bind to the virus?
Because the virus has something called spike. Can we bind to spike?
And can we self assemble on top of the virus preventing it
from interacting with human cells? So we came up with that idea.
We filed the patent, we applied for a grant, we got some funding.
So that’s one thing that we did in the research lab.
We’re trying to publish that work.
Now, in addition to that, what we’ve also been looking at is ever since COVID
came about is maybe 25 to 30% of my lab has transitioned from just Wet lab
and animal work to computational work. And we do a lot of
computational simulations ever since then and we’ve started to
publish in that space as well. So yeah, I think if you do not embrace
the latest and greatest technologies.
You end up doing what they did 50 years ago or 100 years ago,
or even 10 years ago, which is go out into Amazon Rainforest,
go on into many different places and do random screens.
Bunches of different chemicals and plants and different distillates
and things like that, and try to figure out, oh, this might work.
This might work, but you don’t know the side effects now with
much more rationalized design with the technologies we have today,
we can see with almost molecular scale or at almost atomic scale resolution.
The structure of proteins and then we can design other proteins
with again near atomic scale precision to bind them and target.
Right, we’re getting to a point where we can treat many,
many diseases at the near atomic scale of precision.
This is making me miss leaving the lab, I mean, like you talk about
Spike protein have a beta sheet tattooed on my arm.
There were simpler times, but this was more fun.
There you go. There you go.
So but I have to say like you always have people who are.
Quite enthusiastic about these things, but end of the day
there are still so many challenges, one of which is delivery.
How do you get it to where you want it to go and for it to stay there?
Stick around last a long time. Do what you want it to.
So the body is highly heterogeneous, trillions of cells
that are all trying to do a variety of different things to
break stuff down or what have you immune responses.
And then of course, that’s the academic or biological side.
Then you’ve got the funding side. If Big Pharma met device,
what have you is not interested in that portfolio of products,
doesn’t have interest in that.
Taking that technology.
Forward. It’s very difficult to justify clinical trial costs,
which cost hundreds of millions, if not, yeah, 10s of millions
to hundreds of millions of dollars to do so.
There needs to be a strong justification and understanding
of pharma or Med device appetite even before starting something in
my opinion, understanding the whole translational gamut
is critical in every step of the design process.
Where we talked about some of the kind of the practical hybridization
that you’ve been doing between wet and computational science
to think about the, I suppose the philosophical hybridization
between biology and business or you know commerce market development when
I suppose was the first time that you had the first notion about commercializing a model.
When kind of in your personal trajectory was that and you mentioned
that you’ve learned a lot from failure. So was it a success and then
how long until the first big success came after that first idea?
Right. So I guess when I was doing my postdoc back in the end 2012 to early 2016.
I was at Rice University and I was doing self assembling peptides.
We’re working on angiogenic peptides peptides that help
generate blood vessels and I was a scientist, right?
I love doing science publishing papers. I didn’t really care for the
business side of things and I thought to myself.
I’ll let the businessman figure that out. I’m happy with science
and one of the patents that I had filed at Rice University,
along with my advisor Jeffrey Harker, was taken in to be a
part of this entrepreneurship course because they were looking for technologies.
And it just so happened that I was brought in as an advisor for that course.
I ended up taking the course anyway. And Long story short,
through that course I started realizing there is so much
More to medical device and drug development than sitting behind a research.
And it is easy to figure that out. The easiest way.
Go speak to someone who actually does it. Go speak to someone in pharma.
Go speak to a physician who administers the drug.
Go speak to a pharmacy benefits manager who manages
what drugs are formulary or what drugs that hospital or clinic buys.
Right. Go speak to different people in this ecosystem and actually understand
That what you’re doing at the bench may end up in nature
may end up in these great journals, but may never go further than that.
What really matters is you and this perspective is required for translation,
so I do this course. I realize sure basic science is important,
but translating it coming up with lessons, understanding that
pushes and pulls on what drives translation, what drives
these ideas forward is important, and that transform the way I do work,
I no longer ask questions for the sake of asking questions.
Every question I ask in the research I do is translationally motivated,
like how can we improve delivery?
For this target for this application.
I believe, and I think that segues perfectly into the business side
of things or the entrepreneurship side of things in that.
If you have the end target in mind if you understand that pharma
requires XY and Z, this is the kind of efficacy study you need to do
as opposed to just vanity science, right? I think answering
those questions is a lot more important.
And a lot more prudent use of taxpayer money, right?
In terms of grants and things like that, coming up with strategies,
technologies that have benefit and help human.
A lot of failures along the way. In fact, my first company in Angiotech
is still going right now. We’re trying to develop an angiogenic hydrogel
for dental pulp regeneration. We’ve had many hiccups along the way.
One of the lessons that I think one can learn throughout this process is pivoting.
And also you only learn through failure.
Almost everything I know today in terms of entrepreneurship, in terms of
Even self-assembling peptides, the applications of the materials I use,
I’ve learned after my formal training.
In school for example after my PhD, after undergrad and all of that.
Sure I needed to know Orgo and transport and things like that that
I learned in college and Me. But what I do today I’ve learned after
skills I’ve learned on the jobs and skills I’ve learned by going out
and pitching at events and winning or losing or getting someone
coming and tell me that it was terrible or great.
So do you find that just the time commitment in any one day
of balancing a teaching commitment versus lab time versus
attending a board meeting for one of the companies is a juggling act
or two things just kind of take the time that they take?
So the companies that I have are very small and that they have
either 1-2 or zero employees outside of myself.
These are see state startups, a lot of them. What we try to do
is we apply for federal grants or state grants, different kinds
of funding initiatives to get pilot seed money, and then we apply
for bigger grants or go out to apply for VC Angel money, things like that.
Oftentimes at the seed stage, startup is doing pharmaceutical development,
Med device development most of the time you’re not selling to the
market most of the time you will exit to pharma, you’ll exit to
a bigger partner once you’re in late stage. Animal trials, late stage,
clinical trial or early stage late stage, mid stage clinical trials because
you don’t have the infrastructure distribution network, things like that to compete with.
However, if you partner with them, you can synergize and you know translate that way.
And that’s the goal of my companies as well, is to partner or exit
the pharma in late stage animal or early stage human trials.
But to answer your question, I guess my number one priority,
my number one priority are my kids, right? And every day I try to find
the time to make sure that I’m doing something with them,
spending as much time as I can with them.
But outside of that, everything, it’s like water. It’s like a constant hole
spilling this tortuous canal of life. Right. Or tortuous bucket of life
that things will always take up any spare time that I have so yeah.
Well, from all of the experience that you’ve had of going,
you know, through these courses, the pitching, the development,
the company development, do you find that being in Bioscience
compared to any other, you know people going through a similar trajectory
offers a wider range of opportunities or do you think that this is a time
for putting all of those tools to use across?
Physics. Chemistry. Social.
I suppose you know is biology the best place to be starting or
do you look at chemists with envy and think all they get to do
copper nanospheres or something?
Yeah. Honestly, I think one should challenge themselves
to study the most rigorous aspects of whatever discipline they’re interested.
Because fundamentally, if you can learn how to learn which is a big part
of doing a PhD right is learning how to problem solve.
It’s learning how to learn, learning how to ask questions.
If you can learn how to learn, you can learn anything.
You can learn anything and learn anything well, like for example to treat patients.
One could go through medical school, do their residency,
become an attending and then eventually do a fellowship or whatever,
and then do a many, many years of training or one could become
a nurse after two years of training or a PA or a there’s assistant or
a variety of other things that require a lot less.
But still have a significant amount of patient care patient to patient contact,
things like that, right. It may not be the same intricacy.
It may not be the exact same thing, but still, if your goal is
to treat patients now, I think there are multiple ways you
Can go about and getting to these different points.
However, I would argue that by and large, many more physicians do
Research do clinical trials do implement new stages and types of innovative care?
As opposed to as many PAS or nurses or what had.
In fact, I would argue that there’s a lot of nurses do a lot of research.
So anyway, the point I’m trying to make is the more education you get,
the longer you’re in school, the more time you spend trying to
problem solve, the better you are. When you approach
almost any problem, right? And that could be either in the world of medicine.
Innovation. Entrepreneurship. What have you…
When I go out and pitch a lot of entrepreneurs that I see
a lot of really successful folks that I see have very, very, very diverse background.
They come from art. They come from medicine. They come from folks, I mean.
Sciences PHD’s or purely from business and all of them have a deep and
Intricate knowledge of whatever product they’re pitching because
all of them in their respective fields, it could be whatever are super
strong hard workers, experts that put a lot of time
And effort into that to get to that stage.
- Well, with all of the, I suppose the diverse backgrounds
that you’re working with, do you find that, well, I’ll stick to the
way that our phrases on paper because I don’t think I can put it more suitably.
Is spinning off for everyone is commercialization is development
best suited for every Ave. of research or every individual researcher?
So I think the answer to that is yes and no. I think every researcher
should go through the process of understanding translation right
of understanding from start to finish what that entails, whether you
are a clinical trial scientist looking at, you know, dosing a drug,
whether you are a chemical engineer designing a pipe for
Actor right. I think every person should know from start to finish
how their product is going to work. Like when I have a student
talk to me about an idea, I asked them what do you envision on the product insert.
You know a piece of paper. When you take Tylenol and you buy
a drug or anything, it has a product. Insert a piece of paper.
What do you envision being written on that piece of paper as
all the studies that would have been done?
To approve this drug, right? How is it gonna be dosed?
Where is it gonna be dosed? What’s the dosing formulation?
You might not know the answer to all of this or any of this.
But at least you should think about it. Understand that this might
be important one day. Like you could create a really, really good
cure for something, but if it’s extremely unstable, you may never
get it to the masses. You may create a vaccine for X, but they
can’t survive the cold chain to be delivered in remote locations.
It may never get there, right? So there are so many
Considerations that I think every scientist should know about.
So in a sense, it’s translation for everyone. Yes, knowing the steps about it,
knowing the pathway forward for it is critical and essential and
should be taught at every level of school, right.
Entrepreneurship and translation of ideas, right?
How do you take that idea for a lemonade stand and actually implement it?
Right? There’s a Home Depot trip. There’s a trip to the grocery store.
There is a setup fee. There is a weather check right.
There are so many different aspects and anybody can go into
this translational process and gain an appreciation for this from
a lemonade stand to drug development. I honestly believe everyone should plan, right?
Yeah. And the no part of this is I myself am not the right person to
take my product to human beings. I will tell you that right now I’ll tell you
that on every podcast I do, until I am maybe, but I don’t think I’m the right person.
I think the right person to do this is someone who has raised $50 million with pharma before.
I haven’t. Right, because at the right time you need to bring on
the skills for that position, right? When we take our product
into phase one clinical trials, we need to hire a CEO who has done
phase one clinical trials who has experience doing that.
Then we might need to hire a new CEO or maybe have that guy
had that person right and raise a Series A.
Please be have that person exit the pharma, right?
The person with track record. If you’re going into war,
you want to be prepared with the right generals, with the right equipment.
Can’t go in there, not unprepared. How about that?
Too many examples to use, but I won’t.
I think yeah, having that adequate level of preparation is important.
So yes, in a sense, I think even I myself there is a limit to how
much I can translate comfortably with efficiency and after that it is
inefficient and a waste of your time and your innovation to not
hand over the reins, not even handle the reins but not bring on the right
Partners at the right time to move things forward.
I think that’s critical for translation the team.
If there is a undergrad listening to this who thinks I just want
to do my narrow band of biological research, I want to get into a lab.
I want to be there with a pet for however long that takes.
I want to do that and kind of stay in my lane.
Do you think that there is going to be a future for keeping the?
Just up 100%. Oh my God, so 100%. And not just that
whatever you are interested in, if you like pipetting,
but you go home every day and you just love coding, right?
Ohh forget that you love playing computer games, right?
Or maybe designing stuff right? Or you. Like artistic design.
Synergize those. We live in the age where diversity of thought
is celebrated, right? If you can bring together art and medicine
and engineering, you are someone that is unique, more so
than that person who knows only engineering, or that person knows only medicine.
Something else? Synergizing your talents is important,
dizzying around and wasting time is not right.
Everything you do should be worth something. What is the goal?
What are you trying to get out of it? Right. Like what is the win here?
What is the achievement? What is the milestone?
What is the best that you gonna have having done this? Right?
What is the achievement? But if you pipette?
Then you go home, you’re doing some artistic design.
Maybe tomorrow you’re gonna design new pipette. Maybe tomorrow you’re gonna.
Right? So what I would advise that person who likes pipetting
is find whatever you’re interested in and deep dive into that and explore right.
Find as many people you can talk to about it. Start innovating.
Think about anything that’s innovative and exciting about it,
because there are opportunities to innovate.
There is money out there for you to build your ideas.
And if you have any questions about those things,
contact people like me, contact your local entrepreneurship office, right.
I don’t know if I can make a plug here for.
People. But the National Science Foundation runs this program,
called NSF right National Science Foundation, NSF I-C ORPSI Corps icore
they call it icore icore. It is a phenomenal program. It’s very, very intense.
They can get a little mean at times to make sure you complete.
Waiting on time. But if you go through the ICORE program that’s
available at your local universities and universities, have site programs,
and if you’re good, they can go to the national program.
They will give you money to go speak to people, to figure out
if your idea is a good idea or a bad idea. Now, obviously before
you do the program, you kind of have to do some homework.
Your Google searches, things like that, but there are so many resources available.
Wikipedia is available, Google, Google Scholar, and then get deeper,
get more specific, learn a little bit more and verify your sources.
But the information is available. Verify your ideas.
Try to innovate in whatever sphere you’re in,
because that’s where it comes from, right?
Because if you’re pipetting every day, you’re going to say to yourself,
man, I really don’t like X and that’s a gap. Maybe no one has thought about.
Innovate there and make a new pipettor make a new what’s it called?
I don’t know. Maybe a finger splint.
Something there are so many things you can innovate
and just because someone like me sitting in the process.
Chair barely pipettes. I’d never know about that. I’d miss that you wouldn’t.
Are there any other things to plug? Is there anything else
on the near future horizon for what the lab is working on?
Or any courses that you might be leading at NG80?
So in terms of Njit in terms of education, in terms of courses
in general, I would strongly recommend getting into.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and quantum computing.
I think the future is going to leverage these tools and you can
speak some of that language, no pun intended, with machine learning and AI.
But if you can speak any of these languages, I think you will have a leg up.
That being said, you can learn a lot of this on YouTube.
One of the core languages that a lot of these programs use is Python.
You can learn a lot of Python for free on YouTube, or you can learn CS 101, right?
You can learn in the course.
But get in there, Start learning. In fact, a lot of these resources
are available for free from Google or MIT Open course,
whereas so many different places get lost in education,
get lost in learning about these things because I didn’t go to
school for these things and I talk about it now because I got lost
in it and I just loved it and I thought.
How can I do what I’m doing now?
Which is peptides right? Making peptides making proteins
and how can I synergize that with this really cool technology
that’s out there right now and now we have people working on it,
so and speak to people and the most important thing you can do
is stand on the shoulders of giants, right? When you go to Google Scholar
on the bottom below the search bar, it says standing on the shoulders of giants.
The research is done by not inventing something out of the blue.
In my opinion, research is done by taking a look at all the work that’s been done.
Out there this huge foundation and body of work and then saying.
What is a gap that exists and how can I innovate there? Right.
So you have these light posts and sometimes they become beacons
and sometimes they revolutionize the field. But oftentimes you have
this huge body of work and you’re making, you know,
small beacons of change innovations.
They say one of the best things you can do is talk to people.
If anyone wants to talk to you, where can they find you?
Either online social media? What would be the best way to reach out?
So I’m pretty big on LinkedIn. I spent a lot of time there.
I guess if I can plug things, I’ll plug LinkedIn as well because
I think it’s a phenomenal social networking app.
Ever since COVID I have used LinkedIn to make so many
collaborations that have significantly changed the type of work
I do and the folks I speak to in the nature of the work I do.
In addition to that, it’s a great way to communicate
with people who you might never respond.
Before one of the things I’ve always believed in is people like me,
as is evidence right here. Love to talk about themselves.
Loves to talk about what they do. So if you e-mail someone or
message someone and say, hey, you know, I’m really interested
in self assembly. I’m really interested in how we can leverage
quantum computing in peptide design.
I’m really interested in. I don’t know diabetic retinopathy.
I’m really interested in therapeutic, angiogenesis, dental regeneration,
something right. I’d love to talk to you about it.
So reach out with something you’re interested in.
It always helps to, you know, we will search a little bit,
watch a couple of YouTube videos, get yourself up to speed, you know, make the most
Use of every opportunity.
That these conversations will change your life.
You’ll learn lessons that you otherwise wouldn’t have learned.
Also, another thing I can tell you is don’t go in as a salesman, right?
Don’t go in pitching. Here is my product. Drink it. Right.
Don’t go in saying hey. I want to be an astrophysicist.
Tell you know, what are the steps I need? I would go and say,
hey, you’re an astrophysicist, what do you do?
Everyday, what’s your favorite part about your job?
Like like discover something true about it. Discover something unique about it,
because everything else you will get from Google right
information is out there. But that perspective, that feel that
unique aspect that’s hard, right. And even your ChatGPT is not gonna.
Tell you? Yeah, I really don’t wanna bother my son to
take me to the clinic. That’s a big inconvenience, right?
You can ask AI. What’s the biggest challenge with developing drugs for blindness?
And it might tell you, extend relief, blah, blah, blah, right?
Or efficacy targeting different, you know, soluble a number
of different things. But fundamentally through customer discovery,
through speaking to people.
You’re going to realize that inconvenience should influence how you make things.
I think that it’s heartening that for all of our talk about, you know,
the cutting edge of technology and the atomic scale resolution
technology that you used to examine molecules that go into medicine,
but it still comes back to people.
I think it starts and ends with people, right? And my argument
is at every step of the way you should be thinking about those people,
whether it’s the patience. Right. But I mean, you can think about that.
Patient, but the farmer is not interested. They’re not gonna pick up your product.
The patents gonna expire. It’s never gonna make it the clinic, right.
So you gotta think about pharma. You can’t think about pharma unless
you think about the physician because the physician needs to have uptake.
Otherwise, pharma isn’t gonna buy in, right. And then you got to think
about the insurance company because the insurance company
doesn’t have a reimbursement code for this product.
You’re gonna have to apply for one. It’s gonna cost several millions. Delay your
Gave filing right. So Long story short, you gotta learn the ecosystem.
Whatever game you wanna play, right? Go learn the rules.
Go watch a couple of games. Go speak to some of the players,
speak to the umpires. Speak to the fieldsman.
Speak to the bending guy because that bending guy is gonna have
some lessons that you will never have heard of before.
People that it cleans the seats because he’s going to
tell you something that you will not know.
And then by a baseball.
I mean, you know what I mean? That’s the homework you
want to do before you become a baseball player. Go do that.
Yeah. Doing your homework is critical. It is critical.
I would advise every kid who’s in high school in college who’s a professor.
I would advise you go out there and speak to people
because I myself and my colleagues make a mistake all the time.
Make the same mistake all the time, which is getting siloed into this
Small world of self-assembling peptides and not doing anything
else right and not exploring being resistant to changing out of that.
And I would argue that unless you capitalize on the latest technologies,
you’re going to become outdated and you’re not going to be innovative,
you’re not going to change the world. And if you’re not doing that,
do something else right? That’s what we’re here for. That’s what’s fun.
That’s the goal of this. My opinion.
Well, I can’t think of any better note to wrap things up on, then go out there.
And change the world.
You know, my PhD advisor, Elliott Chaikoff, he gave a talk
once and on this last slide. I don’t remember the exact words,
but you know, he said sometimes it gets tiring, right?
You’re in the lab. You’re pipetting. You’re doing this animal work you’re doing
Whatever gets tiring.
And you’re like, you know. What? Just forget it. I’m gonna.
Come back tomorrow or you gotta time part of the week
and you’re like, forget it. I’ll just do it on Monday,
but just keep in mind that extra second that you put in that extra minute,
that extra day, that extra hour, that extra day, extra year, right for some people.
That you put in might change someone’s life, right? The clock is ticking.
The clock is ticking. And ever since then, remember that talk from 2011
at a Gordon Research Conference in Tucson during biomaterials in 2011 in June
Till now, the clock is ticking right. Patients are waiting.
The clock is ticking and that’s what drives me.
And that should drive all the people in my shoes.