Transforming Discovery into Opportunity

Current Trainee Profiles

Trainee Spotlight

Dr. Jon Christensen: Post-Doctoral Fellow

Dr. Jon Christensen is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Screening division at CDRD. He graduated with a Master’s degree from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He joined the Institute of Oncology Research in Switzerland as a doctoral candidate, where he studied the tumorigenesis of colo-rectal cancer, in particular the Wnt pathway.

Jon went on to complete his PhD at the Albert- Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Germany. Here he studied the role of soluble signals from the bone microenvironment and their role in creating breast cancer metastasis, he also developed cell tracking methods to follow cell movement and growth in in vivo tumor models.

While at CDRD Jon contributes to the development of screening assays and the identification active compounds.

Trainee Profiles

CDRD Alumni

Dr. Devinder Sharma

Devinder was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in CDRD’s Pharmacology & Toxicology Division and accepted a full-time position as Medical Science Liaison at GSK.

Dr. Devinder Sharma began obtained his PhD from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at The University of British Columbia (UBC) with Dr. Thomas Chang. Devinder’s doctoral research focused on investigating how a group of anti-HIV drugs may cause clinical drug interactions. Results from his study associated these drugs with Pregnane X Receptor and Constitutive Androstane Receptor, transcription factors that regulate drug elimination processes in humans. Along with offering a rational basis for selection of anti-HIV therapy, his data provide novel therapeutic prospects for these drugs in other human diseases.

Before moving to Canada, Devinder acquired industrial research experience while working in the drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics department of Bristol-Myers Squibb-Biocon R&D Center. At CDRD, he furthered his in multi-disciplinary research collaborations with an aim of finding novel therapeutics in various disease areas, and also explore other opportunities in the field of business development and project management. He is now fulfilling his long term goal is to have an exciting career in pharmaceutical industry and to be a part of teams transforming discoveries into sustainable businesses.


Dr. Anna von Rossum

Anna was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in CDRD’s Biologics and Immunotherapy Division and promoted to a full time Associate Scientists position.

Anna completed her undergraduate degree in microbiology/biochemistry at the University of Victoria (UVic) during which time she held co-op work terms at ImmunoPrecise Antibodies Ltd., The Terry Fox Laboratory, and was involved in several research projects under the supervision of Dr. Caroline Cameron at UVic. Anna then went on to complete her PhD under Dr. Johnathan Choy at Simon Fraser University where she extensively studied the role of T cell death in solid organ transplantation. Her work was instrumental in identifying novel mechanisms by which activation-induced T cell death determines the outcome of chronic heart transplant rejection. Anna has extensive expertise in T cell biology, flow cytometry, and in vivo models of allotransplantation.


Dr. Jayakumar Surendradoss

Jay was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in CDRD’s Pharmacology and Toxicology Division and promoted to a full time Associate Scientist position.

Jayakumar obtained his Ph.D. from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at The University of British Columbia, under the supervision of Dr. Thomas Chang and Dr. Frank Abbott. His doctoral dissertation research was focused on the biotransformation and toxicity of valproic acid in sandwich-cultured rat hepatocytes. Specifically, he investigated the toxicity of two in situ generated reactive metabolites of valproic acid and their role in the hepatocyte toxicity of the parent compound.


Dr. Kathleen Wee

Kathleen was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in CDRD’s Target Validation Division and promoted to a full time Associate Scientist position.

Since joining CDRD, Kathleen has been able to use her expertise in microbiology and immunology on several projects concerned with the development of antimicrobials using approaches focused on novel targets and/or novel mechanisms of action. She also utilizes her bioinformatics skills on several projects involved with identifying novel targets for drug therapy. Her long term goals include integrating –omics systems within the drug discovery and development industry.


Dr. Nazila Safaei Nikouei

Nazila joined CDRD in May 2015 as a Post-Doctoral Fellow and was promoted to a full time Associate Scientist position.

She studied pharmacy at Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran. After graduation she worked as a Formulation Scientist in the R&D department of two pharmaceutical companies in Iran. She received her PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of Alberta under the supervision of Dr. Afsaneh Lavasanifar in June 2014. During her PhD program she synthetized tri block copolymer with pH sensitivity and thermos responsive behavior which led to three publications and one patent. She also developed nanocarrier for targeting cisplatin to EGFR overexpressing tumors which led to one publication.


Dr. Roxana Jayo

Roxana was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Analytical and Pre-Formulation Division at CDRD and promoted to a full time Associate Scientist position at CDRD.

She holds a BSc Honors degree in Chemistry from Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, followed by a PhD in Analytical Chemistry from the University of British Columbia. Her doctoral research focused on the development of methodologies, based on a novel technology that provides a robust strategy for interfacing capillary electrophoresis-electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (CE-ESI-MS), for the study of protein N-glycosylation in complex biological systems and therapeutic recombinant drugs. The analytical methodologies developed during her PhD demonstrated how modern bioanalytical techniques can be used to solve highly complex biotechnology and biomedical problems.


Dr. Erin Fenton

Erin began her postdoctoral fellowship with CDRD in January, 2015 and was promoted to a full time Associate Scientist position at CDRD.

As a member of Project Search and Evaluation, Erin is involved in identifying and evaluating innovative early-stage technologies across all therapeutic areas from academic partners in Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan. Erin also supports the development and commercialization of collaborative projects between academic investigators and CDRD and helps to leverage funds for such projects.


Dr. Kate MacDonald

Kate was Post-Doctoral Fellow in Biologics. Upon completing her term at CDRD, she accepted a full-time scientist position with Bristol-Myers Squibb.

After completing her BSc in Microbiology at the University of Victoria, she earned her PhD in Immunology from the University of British Columbia under the supervision of Dr. Megan Levings. Her graduate work focused on the role of T regulatory cells in autoimmune disease and transplant rejection. During her PhD, Kate made significant contributions to the field of Immunotherapy by developing and validating a novel chimeric antigen receptor for Treg cell therapy.


Dr. Timothy Key

Tim was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Assay Development and Screening. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, and continued onto Dalhousie University in Halifax to pursue a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology.

Dr. Key’s PhD research focused on the molecular mechanisms of cell-cell fusion used by a unique class of Reovirus-encoded proteins, and how these proteins can be used to enhance targeted liposomal drug delivery.


Dr. Daniela Schmid

Daniela was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Formulations Division at CDRD.  She obtained her PhD from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University, Belfast in 2014.

Since November 2014, Daniela has been applying her strengths in drug delivery of anti-cancer agents to develop novel liposomal drug carriers with an emphasis on cancer therapy.  During her time at CDRD, Daniela gained valuable insight into the major challenges that are associated with pre-clinical and clinical drug development. Her project in Collaboration with the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology focused on the development of polymeric nanoparticles for the treatment of cancer; specifically, drug-resistant colorectal tumors.


Dr. Charles Leung

Charles was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Screening Division at CDRD.  Originally from Vancouver, Charles received his Ph.D. in 2011 from the University of Alberta in the Department of Biochemistry.

His graduate work focused on using structural biology, biochemistry and biophysical approaches to study protein interactions that orchestrate DNA damage signaling and repair.  Charles then joined the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto as a Post-Doctoral Fellow.  Continuing his research interests in molecular mechanisms that prevent genome instability and tumorigenesis, he incorporated methods from cell biology, biochemistry and proteomics to further characterize pathways in DNA damage signaling.


Dr. Leon Wan

Leon was a Post-Doctoral Fellow working in the Analytical and Pre-formulation Division at CDRD. Leon earned his Ph.D. from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UBC, under the supervision of Dr. Helen Burt. His doctoral research focused on a polymeric formulation of taxanes for treating multidrug resistant tumors.

Prior to his Ph.D. program. Leon received a Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University, and a MSc. Degree in Biochemistry at California State University, Long Beach.  In the summer of 2013, Leon worked at CDRD as a Graduate Student Intern in the Formulations Division. Leon would like to build his career in the field of pharmaceutical sciences focusing on drug analytical and formulation development.  In October 2014, he took up a Research Scientist position with Celator Pharmaceuticals in Vancouver.


Dr. Clement Mugabe

Dr. Clement Mugabe worked as a Merck/CDRD/MSFHR Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Analytical and Pre-Formulation Division at CDRD from June 2011 until June 2014. Clement holds a BSc. in Biochemistry (2003) and a MSc. in Chemical Sciences (2005) from Laurentian University, Ontario. In 2006, he moved to BC to begin his doctoral studies under the supervision of Dr. Helen Burt in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UBC. He graduated with his Ph.D. in pharmaceutics in 2011.

Since arriving at CDRD, he has been the lead researcher on a CDRD-approved project focused on the re-formulation of chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment of bladder cancer, and has played a key role in driving this project towards commercialization. Dr. Mugabe’s input has been integral to the formation of a new company based around this technology (Sitka Biopharma Inc.). He has disseminated his research at numerous national and international meetings and has published over 14 peer-reviewed scientific articles and contributed to 2 book chapters in the area of drug formulation and delivery.
Clement intends to continue his career in pharmaceutics here in BC. He sees a growing industry in drug delivery with Sitka Biopharma a prime example of new company formation stemming from a drug delivery challenge.  Clement took up his new role as Associate Scientist at CDRD in July 2014.


Dr. Derek van Pel

Dr. Derek van Pel was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Screening Division at CDRD. Born and raised on Vancouver Island, Derek received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of British Columbia in 2012. In his Ph.D. research, Derek utilized cutting-edge yeast and human genomic techniques to identify conserved genetic interactions that reveal novel anticancer therapeutic targets.

Derek’s current role at CDRD is in assay development. He brought a vast repertoire of skills as he approaches new problems, drawing from a broad background in biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics. His expertise is primarily in human tissue culture and gene silencing, which he used to probe chemical-genetic interactions; additionally, he developed novel in vitro biochemical assays to identify small-molecule inhibitors for further therapeutic development.

Derek’s long-term goal is to develop a research program that combines modern high-throughput biological techniques with drug discovery, applied exclusively to human health. He believes his time at CDRD was instrumental in developing the skills, connections, and insights into the drug development process necessary to achieve his goals.

Click here to read Derek’s recent blog post.


Dr. Matthew Smith

Dr. Matthew Smith was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in CDRD’s Medicinal Chemistry Division. Matthew is originally from the UK where he completed his Ph.D in organic chemistry at the University of Nottingham. Matthew’s Ph.D focused on developing novel heterocyclic methodologies and their application to anti-cancer compounds. This lead the use of diazoimidazoles as a precursor for the synthesis of highly functionalized imidazole compounds.

Before joining CDRD Matthew applied his knowledge of imidazole chemistry to the development of nitro-imidazole prodrugs during a Post-Doc at UBC, in collaboration with the BC Cancer Research Centre. In his current role at CDRD, Matthew is exploiting his experience in multi-step synthesis and problem-solving for the synthesis of small molecule drug targets. In order to develop his skills as a medicinal chemist further, Matthew has taken a keen interest in other areas of preclinical drug development so he can better understand the biological testing of the compounds he synthesizes. As part of the Training Program at CDRD Matthew has also broadened his skill set through numerous workshops and seminars. Matthew’s long term goals are to continue working as a chemist in drug development and ultimately, become a Project Leader in industry.  Matthew is currently working as a Senior Scientist with Evotek, UK.


Dr. Gesine Heuck

Dr. Gesine Heuck was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Drug Delivery and Formulation Division at CDRD. She completed her PharmD at the Universities of Regensburg and Kiel, Germany, and the University of Michigan, US. During her PhD at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, Gesine worked on the nanoencapsulation of porphyrin precursors for Photodynamic Therapy and Fluorescence Photodetection of cancer. She further investigated the heme pathway of gram negative bacteria in a collaborative project with the Institut Pasteur.

Gesine brought with her a multifaceted technical skillset ranging from physicochemical characterization and analytical procedure development of bio imaging to in vitro/in vivo examination of drug formulations. She has also organized and participated in numerous workshops related to Intellectual Property, Regulatory Affairs and clinical trials. At CDRD, Gesine applied her know-how to develop lipid based nanoparticle formulations. As part of the CDRD Training Program she enhanced her knowledge on the non-scientific aspects of drug development with an emphasis on business development. Gesine has recently taken up a role as Research Scientist with Precision NanoSystems.
Click here to watch Gesine’s interview about her time as a CDRD Trainee.


Dr. Peter Bergqvist

Dr. Peter Bergqvist was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in CDRD’s Biologics Division. Peter is originally from Sweden where he completed his PhD in Immunology at the University of Gothenburg. During his PhD Peter studied mucosal immunology, focusing on mucosal B-cells and mechanisms of IgA class switch recombination.

Throughout his studies, Peter used a variety of molecular methods to gain in-depth knowledge about clonal relationships among B-cells and the importance of B-cell/T-cell interaction for building up a high-affinity hypermutated IgA V-gene repertoire. Peter applies this training in his current role at CDRD where he is responsible for the molecular aspects of therapeutic antibody generation. Peter’s activities include everything from cloning antigens used in screening and antibody generation, to antibody humanization strategies, and designing and implementing strategies for antibody V-gene cloning, and. As part of Peter’s training at CDRD, he has also broadened his skill set through numerous workshops and seminars on topics such as project management, grant writing, Intellectual Property rights and strategies, and entrepreneurship.

Peter is continuing his career with CDRD as Associate Scientist in Biologics.


Dr. Sheetal Raithatha

Dr. Sheetal Raithatha was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in CDRD’s Screening Division (April 2011 – September 2013).  Originally from Calgary, Sheetal received his PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.  During his PhD Sheetal studied intricate transcriptional mechanisms regulating key transitions in eukaryotic cell division and differentiation pathways.  He furthered this study in a Post-Doctoral position at UBC, to include the characterization of post-translational modifications on key regulatory factors mediating morphological responses to extracellular stimuli.

With over 11 years of research experience in the Life Sciences arena, Sheetal utilizes his broad biochemistry and molecular biology background to develop and optimize biochemical and live-cell assays for the purpose of high-throughput small molecule screening.  Sheetal currently plays a leading role in 4 different collaborative screening efforts, evaluating novel therapeutics for indications ranging from cancer to critical neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and ALS, and also metabolic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.  The Post-Doctoral Training Program at CDRD has significantly enhanced Sheetal’s exposure to all areas of pre-clinical drug research and development, and has strengthened his experiences in assay development and disease evaluation.  Sheetal’s future goals are to pursue a career in drug development within the areas of neurological disorders and cancer.  His strong scientific background, together with his invaluable training experience at CDRD has positioned him with a significant competitive advantage in today’s biotech landscape.

In September 2013, Sheetal commenced the role of Research Scientist at viDA Therapeutics in Vancouver.


Frances Vu

Watch Video Series: Life as a Trainee at CDRD Ventures Inc.

 


Frances Vu was a Business Development Intern at CDRD Ventures Inc.  from November 2012 until October 2013.  She completed her MBA from University of Oxford and has an MSc in Immunology from University of Toronto.  During her MBA summer course term, she travelled to Merck KGaA (EMD Serono) in Darmstadt, Germany to develop a business plan for a new drug candidate for multiple sclerosis.

Previous to Frances’ MBA study, she was a Product Manager at STEMCELL where she was responsible for managing all stages (i.e. product development, product launch, and product change/discontinuation) of the cell separation/immunology product line.  At CDRD, she continued to apply and develop her skills in market analysis and business development to help commercialize early-stage drug development projects.  She wasresponsible for developing business cases, which include outlining the technical merits, key commercial issues and risks, deal terms, and financial opportunitiesHer business cases have been used to guide the commercialization pathway for out-licensing or new company formation.  As part of Frances’ training at CDRD, she has also broadened her skills-set through numerous workshops and seminars on topics including Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property Rights and Strategies.

Frances currently works as a Medical Science Liaison Associate for Astra Zeneca, Canada.


Dr. Pauline So

Pauline was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in CDRD’s Target Validation Division from January 2012 until September 2013. Pauline completed her PhD in Molecular Medicine at Boston University in 2011, where she studied the role of amyloid precursor protein (APP) dimerization in Alzheimer’s Disease. Her work led to a fellowship at the Laboratory for Drug Discovery and Neurodegeneration (LDDN) at the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center, where she developed assays and completed a screen for APP dimerization inhibitors, and identified two lead compounds that reduced amyloid beta production.

During her studies, Pauline developed a keen interest in drug research and development, along with a wide range of applicable skill sets in molecular biology and biochemistry techniques. At CDRD, she continues to apply and develop new skills and expertise to help validate novel drug targets for a variety of diseases including MRSA, periodontal diseases, epithelial barrier dysfunction, breast cancer and Huntington’s disease, identifying biomarkers for inflammatory bowel diseases as well as working on inter-divisional collaborations with CDRD Biologics to assist in projects for rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. As part of her CDRD training, Pauline was also exposed to the business perspective of the pharmaceutical industry, and was mentored by the business liaison manager at CDRD. As part of the program, Pauline has also participated in seminars and workshops on project management, entrepreneurship, intellectual property, and communications.

Pauline is continuing her career with CDRD as Associate Scientist in Target Validation.


Dr. Sharon Sun

Sharon was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Drug Delivery division at CDRD from September 2009 until June 2013. She obtained a B.Sc. Honors degree in Chemistry from the University of Regina in 2005, after which she undertook PhD studies in the lab of Dr. David Chen at the Department of Chemistry in UBC. During her PhD., Sharon was involved in investigating various types of molecular interactions using capillary electrophoresis (CE).

Throughout her studies, she also developed a computer simulation program to model the interaction of protein with small molecules during electrophoresis. This program was used to help undergraduate students envision the binding and migration process of molecules in electrophoresis in several undergraduate analytical courses.

Sharon is currently Shared Facilities Manager in the Department of Chemistry at the University of British Columbia.


Dr. Jane Savill

Jane began her CDRD postdoctoral fellowship within Target Validation at CDRD in October 2010 and stayed with CDRD for over two years. Her PhD work involved an RNA interference screen, identifying factors that are involved in the DNA damage response pathway. She has also completed CDRD workshops in clinical drug development, project management, grant writing, business foundations of drug development, PK, research ethics, entrepreneurship as well as being an active participant of our mentorship program. During her time at CDRD, she was involved in the development of cell-based assays for part of the future pre-clinical drug selection process.

Jane received her bachelor’s degree in genetics from the University of British Columbia Prior to her PhD studies, Jane worked as a Research Associate in the drug development division of Xenon Pharmaceuticals Inc. She later moved to the United Kingdom where she took up PhD studies in the Department of Oncology at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Prof. Ashok Venkitaraman. She brings to the Target Validation group, approximately 15 years of research experience. CDRD focuses on bridging the gap between academia and industry. With a strong focus on collaboration, the ethos of CDRD is what attracted Jane to the organization. The postdoctoral training program has exposed Jane to all areas of pre-clinical drug development which has allowed her to expand her experience in assay development and diagnostics, along with her knowledge of research commercialization. She intends on taking these experiences to further her career as a leading scientist in translational research within the fields of oncology, neurological disorders, and/or metabolic diseases.


Dr. Erik Hadley

Dr. Erik Hadley began his Post-Doctoral fellowship at CDRD in July 2008 in the Target Validation Division. His work at CDRD focused on the development of liposomal carriers for the delivery of cationic antimicrobial peptides. Erik is currently a Scientist at STEMCELL Technologies Inc.

“Over the 21 months that I worked at CDRD, I participated in a variety of fast-paced drug development projects. I found the work that I did extremely fascinating and unlike anything I had done before. Although I was using the core scientific skills I had developed in my previous training, I was applying them while working with a truly multi-disciplinary team of people from different backgrounds. I made vast improvements to my abilities in the area of project management and communication that I would not have been able to make in an academic setting. My experience in these and other areas was supplemented by the formal training courses offered by CDRD. These courses provided a solid framework from which I could maximize the benefit of my practical experience learned through direct involvement in research projects. The training courses that I took while at CDRD will definitely provide a great foundation for continued improvement throughout my career.

One of the greatest benefits of my experience at CDRD was insight into the “bigger picture” regardng the significance of the research projects that I was involved in. I was challenged to think not only of how to move a project forward, but of the utility and long-term commercial viability of the products we were developing. This experience benefited me greatly when the Vancouver-based company, STEMCELL Technologies, invited me to discuss career opportunities. I delivered a presentation that effectively communicated how my research skill set could add value to their company by providing expertise that was complementary to their current capabilities. As a result of my presentation, I obtained a position at STEMCELL Technologies and achieved my goal of becoming a research scientist at a Vancouver-based company. I believe that I was successful in this endeavor because I was able to step back from the science and generate an accurate perspective of the current needs of their company; I do not believe that I would have had the confidence to succeed at this prior to my experience at CDRD. As I move forward in my new career, I am confident that the training and experience I obtained at CDRD will continue to be exceptionally valuable.”

 


"We've brought on a number of graduates of the CDRD Training Program as full-time permanent employees here at STEMCELL. They are by far the most industry-prepared of all our new recruits."
- Dr. Allen Eaves, President and CEO, STEMCELL Technologies Inc.

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