Zandile Nare blogs about her EASTBIO PIPS experience

Winning in western blotting at Thermo Fisher Scientific (please click on the title to read more)
by Zandile Nare

Background information

I am a second-year EASTBIO PhD student within the Institute of Immunology and Infection Research at the University of Edinburgh. My research focuses on the identification of specific inhibitors of kinetoplastid RNA editing ligase 1 (REL1), a validated drug target, for use as lead compounds for the treatment of human and animal diseases caused by  kinetoplastid parasites (e.g. sleeping sickness, nagana, Chagas disease & various leishmaniases). A secondary goal of my PhD is to understand structure-activity relationships of REL1 and the other kinetoplastid ligase; REL2.

PIPS project background and motivation for pursuing project

I already have experience working within a laboratory setting in a life science company as a Protein Purification and Conjugation Laboratory Technician at Abcam (Cambridge, UK), but I am also interested in gaining experience of working in an industrial setting outside of the lab. Currently, I am completing my PIPS placement at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Paisley, UK - PIPS is a mandatory part of the EASTBIO DTP training. The primary goal of this internship is to generate more business for Thermo Fisher Scientific’s protein biology portfolio with a focus on generating leads for the company’s new western blot imaging systems; the iBright CL1000 and iBright FL1000. I pursued this project because I wanted to learn something completely new and this project allows me to get non-lab industrial experience. I also felt that this opportunity would allow me to use my knowledge of biochemistry and molecular biology while learning more about the intersectionality between science and sales.

Experience so far

I am currently half way through my internship and I have greatly enjoyed my experience working at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Up to now, I have achieved my goal of generating leads for the iBright western blot imaging systems as well as other instruments, assays and consumables. This is important because these leads may promote the continued growth of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s protein biology business.

Interestingly, my placement is aligned well with the theme for the year’s EastBio Symposium which is “industrial impact of bioscience”. I have learned a great deal about how the life science sales industry works, as well as the significant impact that this company has on basic translational research. For example, the Thermo Fisher Scientific Cell Therapy Systems (CTS™) products were instrumental in the development of Kymriah™ by Novartis; the first FDA and EMA approved CAR-T cell therapy for children and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. The case of Kymriah™ is fascinating to me because (1) I find pharmacogenomics and personalised medicine really interesting and (2) it has highlighted the fact that Thermo Fisher Scientific is “shaping bioscience research” which is consistent with EastBio’s mission statement. This role has highlighted the importance of maintaining a good relationship between researchers and industry links – this is perhaps the biggest take home message for me so far.

EASTIO DTP PIPS are funded by the BBSRC.