Dr Richard Kaschula is a Venture Builder at NG Bio where he leads on the early-stage evaluation of new technologies in the field of autoimmunity.
What were you doing before you joined the Fellowship programme?
I was a post-doctoral Fellow at the Francis Crick Institute working in the field of neurobiology in the laboratory of Professor Iris Salecker. Our research focus was on investigating the fundamental molecular and cellular events that underlie neural circuit formation in the visual system using the tireless model organism Drosophila melanogaster.
What attracted you to the programme?
In the final few years of my research career, I became increasingly fascinated by the challenge of translating discovery science into real world applications that will benefit society. This led me to the world of biotechnology and investment and the pivotal role technology transfer plays in this ecosystem. It was clear that the LifeArc Fellowship was going to provide an incredible opportunity to learn more about technology transfer and gain operational experience working with exciting new scientific discoveries and technological developments.
What were your first impressions when you started your first rotation?
My first impression was that there was a lot to learn, and this was closely followed by the realisation that this role would be very different to being a somewhat semi-independent researcher. The greater need to manage short-term objectives and timelines was very different to the world of long running experiments and data collection. I have always been a big believer in learning by doing, so I was happy to embrace the elements that I didn’t yet know about and to learn to manage my time with increasing effectiveness in this new environment.
What were your highlights of the Fellowship?
For me the highlight across many of the rotations was to work with those developing exciting new technologies and be forced to understand areas of biology that I had never had the opportunity to investigate in detail before. Reading in-depth through rheumatology patents or delving into the mechanics of immune checkpoint inhibitors was a real eye-opener to a world I had previously missed, and helping scientists try to bring for breakthroughs in these areas to the real world was very rewarding.
How has your career progressed after the Fellowship?
Following the Fellowship, I secured a position at NG Bio, a new biotechnology investment company. NG Bio look to partner with scientists at an early stage to aid the commercial development of exciting new therapeutics in the field of autoimmunity. My role at NG Bio is to lead on the technical assessment, knowledge gathering and competitive intelligence of new technologies.
How has the programme helped you with your career?
I had previously learnt about science translation, biotechnology and investment, so being part of the Fellowship was the ideal opportunity to continue that cycle of learning and put the knowledge acquired into practice that knowledge and better understand how research is translated into solutions that can be applied more broadly. As a previous bench scientist, the second area of benefit for me was in gaining experience working outside of the lab/academic environment which can sometimes be very insular. This new experience was a welcome change, and all together reinforced my belief that I had made the right decision to step away from active research.
How would you describe the programme to your peers?
LifeArc’s programme is a great opportunity to gain experience in a wide range of technology transfer activities, so if you are interested in the practical matters of science translation, I can’t think of a better situation to find yourself.
I would encourage anyone interested in science translation to apply for the Technology Transfer Fellowship. There is a lot of information to take in at the beginning, but training and support is always available and the opportunity to learn on the job is immense. There are many aspects that make the successful translation of discovery science possible, and this Fellowship provides great exposure to that challenge.