UU Innovation’s mentor programme matches doctoral students and researchers who want to create useful solutions from research results with experienced mentors working outside academia. The programme is offered once a semester, and 30 April is the deadline to apply for a place to start this autumn.

Exploring the potential of new technology

One of the programme participants is Daniel Camsund, who is working on developing new techniques for looking at customised genetic libraries of cells using microfluidics and automated microscopy. One technique in particular, which he calls Secretion Effect Detection (SED), he believes could be of interest to the biopharma industry as well as for studies of, for example, virus-infected cell samples.

“When I was thinking about new ways to develop antimicrobial peptides for use as new antibiotics, I realised that it is possible to design microfluidic chips to measure secretions from living cells. SED combines synthetic biology with microfluidics, and could be used to measure the amounts or effects of different biomolecules secreted from cells, such as biologic drugs or viruses,” says Daniel Camsund.

To further explore the potential of the technique, he contacted UU Innovation for advice and support, and was also offered a place in their mentor programme to give an extra boost to his innovation project.

“Coming from academia, I didn’t have what I needed to move forward with SED in a good way. I lacked both experience in business development in the biotech industry and an overview of what interest in new techniques and technologies exists in the industry. A mentor with such experience could help me with both the right information and the right networks,” he says.

New contacts and business development

So, how did it go? Daniel Camsund was matched with mentor Jonas Åström, who has a broad background in life science from academia, small businesses and large companies.

“Thanks to Jonas’ experience and network, I can continue to develop SED commercially, and get in touch with potential users or partners at biotech companies all around. The input I have received from both Jonas and his contacts is extremely valuable, and it would have been difficult and taken much longer to move forward without that help,” says Daniel Camsund.

A general lesson he has learned so far through the mentor programme is to dare to talk to people who you suspect know more about the problem you want to solve, and ask them about contacts they think could lead to further results. In Daniel Camsund’s experience, many people are very helpful and interested.

“UU Innovation’s mentor programme is like opening a floodgate to good contacts. But at the same time, it is so much more. It is an effective and pleasant way to get help to move forward with your idea. For me, the UU Innovation advisors, together with my mentor, are invaluable in terms of the support they provide in turning SED into an innovation that is useful to society,” he says, adding:

“So, if you have an idea you think could be useful, do not hesitate to apply to the programme.”