sciVelo transforming careers: Member spotlight on Vinitha Ganesan, PhD

"Growth happens outside your comfort zone and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow here at sciVelo."

Vinitha Ganesan, PhD

Vinitha’s first foray into commercial translation was during her PhD at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in 2013, where she worked on developing an early prototype of a proteomics method. This method has now been commercialized into a protein sample preparation product by her PhD advisor, Dr. Jonathan Minden and her peer Dr. Amber Lucas. "That’s when I caught the start-up bug, becoming more interested in start-ups and commercialization." Vinitha was also actively involved in founding and leading a student wellness initiative at CMU, called YesPlus. She led the fundraising efforts for YesPlus while fostering collaborations within and outside the university. Vinitha started considering a non-academic career path as she enjoyed the fast-pace work of leading and networking to make positive changes to the community. "While I enjoyed my time at the lab, I realized I could also be working on things outside the lab, pushing ideas forward faster."

She first joined Fourth River Solutions in 2017 as a consultant and volunteered to work with local investors, helping with market research in life sciences. Shortly thereafter, while looking into different opportunities to gain experience and to grow in her career, a friend told her about sciVelo, which was then in its first year. She was very attracted to the startup-like energy of sciVelo and it seemed like the perfect fit.
Vinitha joined sciVelo in 2018 as a Commercial Translation Architect. She began working with Julie Cramer, PhD, now part of the Innovation Institute, who was the sciVelo Program Manager for the Immunotherapy initiative at the time. Vinitha helped build the immunotherapy portfolio, supported investigator teams with crafting funding proposals, pitches and invention disclosures, which led to project funding from the UPMC Immune Transplant and Therapy Center (ITTC). This role exposed Vinitha to many opportunities that helped her develop professionally. For example, her close collaborations with Pitt faculty members gave her the opportunity to improve her communication skills. In addition, she learned from the sciVelo team members and their experiences.

“sciVelo is a very collaborative and welcoming team, and I got to meet so many wonderful leaders here. People are the best part of sciVelo. I’m grateful for the supportive and engaging culture of sciVelo. Whenever I ran into any challenges, I could always go back to Andrew, Kathrin or Don and find solutions together. The team has your back! You are also always heard, everyone on the team is listened to, on making important decisions.” -- Vinitha Ganesan, PhD
In 2019, Vinitha has become the Program Manager for the Precision Medicine Initiative for Commercialization (PreMIC). PreMIC is part of a $2.8M RK Mellon Foundation grant to the Institute for Precision Medicine awarded in July 2019. She successfully led this initiative where she recruited faculty members to build the Precision Medicine portfolio of early stage translational projects at Pitt. In collaboration with the IPM, she conceptualized and led the PreMIC pitch competition through the entire cycle of funding, right from coining the acronym PreMIC to supporting pitch development of participating teams, recruiting reviewers and pitch competition judges and facilitating funding release to the award winners. She also mentored an undergraduate student, who now has moved on to an engineering role in a biotech company in Silicon Valley.

The time has come now for Vinitha to take on a new challenge. She will soon join a new Pitt-licensed spin-off company Globin Solutions Inc as their Development Operations Manager. “Globin Solutions is a pre-clinical stage biopharmaceutical company with their first therapeutic candidate addressing carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO poisoning is the most common human poisoning worldwide. The founding team of Globin has done a lot of amazing work to identify protein-based antidotes to treat this in a point of care setting. I will be establishing and leading the operational processes in a brand-new laboratory space. I will be involved in the regulatory process and push the pipeline towards an Investigational New Drug Application (IND) to the FDA. I will also be working in a business development role on other therapeutic candidates at the company.”
Vinitha says her sciVelo experience has helped her throughout the application and interview processes. She is also confident that the skills she developed at sciVelo will bring her success in her new job.

“The most significant contributions of my sciVelo experience to my career have been to set goals and to stay focused. When you are able to break down your strategic vision into measurable goals and prioritize, you can achieve a lot. I think this is a very valuable skill that helped me in securing my new job.”

Vinitha’s story is another example of sciVelo supporting, transforming and advancing an early career scientist who has come to sciVelo to learn, to grow and to contribute her knowledge and hard work to add value to the university and the community. She is thankful for the wonderful sciVelo experience that taught her to be persistent and fearless, to keep pushing and leading!
“Look at what Vinitha has accomplished because of her commitment to leadership development and service. Vinitha’s story has just begun to be told and throughout her career she will be making headlines for herself and for others. Thank you, Vinitha, for stretching beyond your comfort zone and helping so many people with their academic commercial translation.”

Donald P. Taylor, PhD, MBA, CLP, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences Translation, Associate Professor, Biomedical Informatics, and Executive Director, sciVelo.