Win-win mentoring nurtures next gen STEM leaders

City skyline transposed onto a globe. Credit: Joshua Rawson Harris

CCRM Australia is fostering the development of students in Regenerative Medicine to become industry ready and engaged with a global network through its IMNIS Regenerative Medicine International Mentoring Program.

They say you can’t be what you can’t see. So, for PhD students in regenerative medicine to think beyond the expected academic career pathways, they need to see that working with industry across commercialisation and real world application of their research is a viable option.

The IMNIS Regenerative Medicine International Mentoring Program supports PhD students with a passion for commercialising regenerative medicine therapies to produce treatments and cures for patients. A partnership between the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) and CCRM Australia, learning is a two-way street within the program that exposes industry to the value of PhD holders’ critical thinking and significant technical capacities in the workplace.

The first round of the seven-month program kicked off in March 2018, connecting Australian-based PhD students with internationally recognised regenerative medicine industry professionals. Five mentee and mentor pairs participated in the 2018 pilot program, which resulted in a 100% participant satisfaction rate.

Mentees were given the opportunity to meet their overseas mentors thanks to a CCRM Australia travel award to attend an international regenerative medicine industry event.

PhD student Samuel Keenan met his mentor, Jonathan Fitzgerald, in Cambridge, Boston. “The meeting included a tour of six regenerative medicine and biotech companies, including the company where Jonathan works”, explained Sam. “It was an amazing experience meeting my mentor face to face, and physically seeing the companies and working style of a biotech hub.”

Samuel Keenan
Samuel Keenan

As VP of Program Management for Torque Therapeutics, Jonathan Fitzgerald leads multiple cross functional teams to move new therapeutic candidates into clinical trials. He said mentoring Sam reminded him of why he moved into science. “Sam reminded me of the joy of discovery and experimentation,” he noted. “His questions helped me clarify what I have learnt on my own journey and remind me of how much I now take for granted. And setting up a Cambridge-biotech tour for Sam also introduced me to some neighbours I plan to follow up with.”

Sara Mary Hall, CEO of start-up OcQuila Therapeutics and mentor of ARMI PhD student Dhanushika Ratnayake (Danni) said, “Scientists coming into their own now have a far more robust underlying understanding than any of us could have had two decades ago – instrumentation and tools available are more sophisticated and data allows them to view problems in a fundamentally different way. Being able to view academia and industry from Danni’s perspective has been of tremendous benefit to me, personally and professionally.”

Danni Ratnayake
Danni Ratnayake

Danni agrees the program has been transformative for her career and outlook. “When I started, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Talking to Sara about her journey has helped me be less stressed about the future and to get excited by the opportunities,” she commented. “I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to learn about the international regenerative medicine sector and to get some tailor made advice on career pathways,” she said. “With Sara’s encouragement I’ve taken the time to interrogate what drives me as a person, and this self-reflection has been a great help in identifying where to focus my energy.”

Sam agrees mentoring programs like this are important as the path to success is not always simple in research science. “Everyone’s path is unique, and subject to a lot of hard work,” he said. “Learning from a mentor helped me to find the right track for the kind of success I want.”

The program will run again in 2019 to equip researchers with the skills to become STEM leaders.

About CCRM Australia

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About CCRM Australia:

CCRM Australia is an Australian not-for-profit organisation supporting the development of foundational technologies to accelerate the commercialisation of regenerative medicine products and therapies. CCRM Australia’s focus is to bridge the commercialisation gap through a network of scientists, entrepreneurs, academic institutions and industry partners and address bottlenecks in the industry. CCRM Australia is modelled on the highly successful CCRM in Canada and is legally separate to CCRM. As a member of the Global CCRM network, CCRM Australia is a partner to a leading-edge industry consortium. CCRM Australia is supported by MTPConnect and the Victorian State Government.

Twitter: @ccrm_au



Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash