Site-specific conjugation to immunoglobulin for target delivery therapy
Samantha Feng is a Ph.D. candidate in pharmacology and toxicology, with an emphasis in biotechnology. She is active member of ESTEME, Equity in STEM and Entrepreneurship, a graduate student-initiated program, and is passionate about translating advanced bench bed technology into exciting potential market opportunities.
In a nutshell, describe your project or venture.
We have developed a novel conjugation technology that could improve the current antibody-based targeted drug delivery platform to treat various cancer types and prevent infectious disease. Our special linker technology allows payloads to specifically attach to any commercialized available antibody. This simple-to- use linker allows us to easily conjugate drugs to commercial antibodies, thereby streamlining the synthesis process from three months to just 15 minutes.
What’s important about your research or project—and where do you hope to take it?
My research focuses on a drug delivery system that is engineered for the targeted delivery and/or controlled release of therapeutic agents. Our lab has studied different delivery platforms—such as nanoparticles, protein-based vehicles and peptides—to target different types of cancer. The advantages of the targeted delivery system include reducing the frequency of the dosages taken by the patient while maintaining an effective drug plasma level; having a more uniform effect; and reducing side effects by targeting the drug directly to the desired site, thereby reducing off-target organ effects.
The work is preparing me to design better delivery systems that can selectively transport drugs to targeted intracellular sites, and release the drugs in response to specific molecular signals.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
As scientists study how cancers develop and progress, we are also learning more about the different ways our bodies respond to chemotherapy resistance and the influence of survival rate from the side effects. I am very excited to be part of a team that is working on solutions to improve these problems. The translational potential also motivates me, as the projects collaborate closely with clinical physicians.
What was the most important thing you learned at the UC Entrepreneurship Academy?
I appreciate the speakers from various disciplines—both in their early career development and those at a more advanced stage—who shared their experiences in translating their bench work into products, while building the appropriate skillsets to pursue a competitive career. I particularly enjoyed the brainstorming sessions to help us develop marketable products. It is very inspiring to see such diverse career pathways from STEM background speakers.
What is the most unexpected advice you received from a mentor?
The mentors paid close attention to my idea and used their network to help me brainstorming the technology. They were very willing to share their connections with me and follow up after the academy.
How has participation in the Big Bang! workshops and business competition helped you as an aspiring entrepreneur?
Participation in the business competition sharpens my thinking process to spin out a company to commercialize our product into the market. By breaking a giant mission down into a series of small tasks, the workshops have nurtured us with real-life experiences in how to bridge the gap between an idea and a viable product. Combining the scientific background with business advisor feedbacks, it also helped us better understand the oncology biotech field. In particular, the opportunities provided us to connect with with business-minded people is invaluable.
The Keller Pathway Fellowship Program specifically supports women, cross-disciplinary researchers and other underrepresented university-based entrepreneurs. Do you have any insight, experience or concern you’d like to share?
The self-confidence, persistence and good project management skills I’m developing will help me overcome the barriers projected onto women entrepreneurs. The female entrepreneurs we met here are strong role models. I am very proud to receive this fellowship and hopefully to motivate more students to be involved in entrepreneurship.
How will your experiences as a Keller Pathway Fellow help you to change the world?
The Keller Pathway Fellows program has equipped me with communication skills to pitch science ideas to audiences who are outside the technical community. In the next step, our Big Bang! team, ImmunoTag, would like to license our conjugation patent to biotech companies, to maximize market acquisition and increase the speed of drug pipeline delivery, thus saving countless lives.