You joined Gain Therapeutics in 2020 when it was a private company and played a role in helping to take the company public. What was that experience like? What is your day to day work like? What are your responsibilities?
Contributing to Gain Therapeutics’ public offering was a unique and invaluable experience. I joined the company six months prior to the IPO, at a time when we met with hundreds of different investors and worked with cross-functional groups. This resulted in such a broad range and variety of work. Every day was a chance to see and work on something I never had before. One thing is for sure – boredom was not in my vocabulary.
A gratifying and positive aspect of my involvement was meeting the people who had personal connections to our mission. There were countless individuals who had been impacted by the diseases for which we were developing drugs to treat. Having the opportunity to meet with these people one on one drove home our mission and reminded me why we do what we do.
As for the public offering, it took place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when all employees were remote. The CEO and myself were the only US-based employees. Most of the company was (and still is) based in Europe, so we had some pretty atypical working hours. It was a challenging time and my scope of responsibilities was broad, but I am grateful for the experience and the opportunities it provided for growth.
My favorite part of working in a small company is the diversity of responsibilities. Having the opportunity to be involved in so many different aspects, from media and investors to pharma, really accelerated both my personal and professional growth. Working across these areas also allowed me to learn a lot in a short amount of time. I was able to quickly familiarize myself with the company and the drug discovery space.
As the company has grown, my role has evolved to be more defined and is now primarily focused on business development. I am fortunate to still have the opportunity to work on projects outside of my direct focus area. This keeps me agile and always learning.
How was your experience at University of California, Santa Cruz? Did it prepare you for your current role? What classes were the most relevant? What classes do you wish you had taken? Your family are scientists, did that affect your career decisions?
The years I spent at UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering were truly some of the best of my life. As a biomolecular engineering and bioinformatics student, my coursework included a mix of wet lab work and coding. Most impactful was when I worked at the UCSC Genomics Institute, where I had the opportunity to contribute to platforms such as the Xena browser, a functional genomic database, and work with the Oxford Nanopore genome sequencing technology. This revolutionary advancement in the gene sequencing space was actually invented and developed at the institute. Unlike traditional short-read sequencing done at companies like Illumina, for example, Oxford nanopore technology works by measuring changes in electric signals as DNA or RNA strands are passed through a protein nanopore. This results in significantly longer read lengths, which is especially helpful for genome assemblies and understanding genome architecture. I had the opportunity to apply this technology to perform the first de novo assembly of an arsenic-fixing bacteria, Citrobacter.
My time at UCSC kickstarted my interest in innovative and transformative technologies and it is what eventually led me to join Gain Therapeutics. In hindsight, I wish I had taken more finance classes while I was there. Having a better understanding of accounting and financial modeling may have reduced the learning curve I experienced when joining the company.
As for my family’s involvement, they undoubtedly influenced my career decisions. My parents are both scientists and as a child, I spent many summers in labs pipetting water into 96-well plates and playing with lab equipment. Over time, I was inspired to move towards a business-oriented role. I appreciate having the opportunity to experience both worlds—working in transformative science while helping create value for the business.
You had a chance to work abroad in the HQ in Switzerland and in the US. What was it like working in both Europe and the US? How do you think Gain benefits being in both regions?
My first in-person experience at the company took place in the Lugano, Switzerland office for approximately six months. On occasion, I visited the research labs in Barcelona and it was terrific to watch our supercomputer powered platform in action, along with our wet-labs.
Gain having offices in Lugano, Barcelona, and the US is a great strength. It allows for unique perspectives from the blending of different cultures and backgrounds. It also allows us to maximize our impact by working with a global network of key opinion leaders (KOLs), collaborators, and other stakeholders. While I did not notice many cultural differences in the office settings, it appeared that Europeans have a different (and I think better) relationship with work than we do here in the US. For example, when I was in Lugano or Barcelona, we always ate lunch together, whereas most of the time in the US, I have lunch alone at my desk. I would love to see the US adapt some of the European ways of working.
What are you most excited about Gain Therapeutics’ future?
There are many things I am very excited about at Gain, but the two main ones are the progression of the Parkinson’s program into the clinic and the application of the platform technology. It has been incredible to see the progress made with the PD program internally, especially given that in parallel, there have been significant breakthroughs in the CNS space. In the last year alone, we have seen approvals for drugs for Alzheimer’s and ALS, and the development pipeline has never looked more promising. I am excited to finally see the GBA-PD program enter the clinic and hopefully provide patients with a therapy that is fundamentally meaningful.
On the platform side, it’s invigorating to witness how advances in computation have empowered drug hunters to work on difficult targets. Over the last five years, there has been an explosion in the computational drug discovery space. It has been a valuable learning experience to work with a pioneer in the field. I am excited to see these platforms (and specifically Gain’s) continue to expand and someday deliver a much needed drug to patients worldwide. There is so much on the horizon. I look forward to continuing to remain a part of this meaningful work for many years to come.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In my free time, I enjoy being outdoors in the sun, traveling, and spending quality time with friends and family. I most recently traveled to India, where I had the opportunity to connect with family and see parts of the country I had never been to before. I especially enjoyed visiting Dharamshala, a small town located at the edge of the Himalayas. While I definitely consider myself a “city person,” I find that when I travel I always enjoy the smaller towns and villages much more. When you are visiting a new place, it is often hard to truly appreciate a different culture in such a short amount of time, but in my experience I have found that the smaller the town, the more authentic the experience.