sciVelo translating careers: Team member spotlight on Ayantika (Annie) Ghosh, PhD

Translating valuable research skills into academic commercialization

Ayantika (Annie) Ghosh, PhD moved to the United States in 2010 from India to join the University of Pittsburgh as a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Pediatrics-Gastroenterology & Hepatology. During her postdoctoral studies, she successfully led and completed research projects focused on molecular signaling pathways implicated in inflammatory bowel disease and cholestatic liver disease. She published 13 research articles in peer-reviewed journals, presented her research at conferences such as the American Association of Liver Disease, and wrote grant proposals to fund her research. Even with her impressive track record as a budding research investigator, Annie knew early on that her calling was for a career that extended beyond traditional academic research.
"There is an interesting story about how I was motivated to be in the field of academic commercial translation. My mom and I were having our usual phone chats when she informed me about a relative who had recently lost his fight against cancer. I was close to that relative and the news of his death saddened me. To cheer me up, my mother jokingly asked how far along I was in developing the next blockbuster cancer drug. I didn’t have an answer that day, but the conversation set my mind to think about the application of my research to something that could dramatically improve the lives of others. That phone conversation planted the ‘first seeds of commercial translation’ in my mind."

Annie Ghosh, PhD

In her early days as a Pitt research investigator, Annie had a growing interest to advance the dissemination and implementation of her clinical and scientific research through commercial translation. She started with internships at the Innovation Institute and the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse to expose her to new ways of thinking about the applications of her research beyond grants and publications. After that foundation, she was looking for additional opportunities to become embedded with commercial translation. One day, she came across an online job post through a Pitt program that was announcing positions for early career scientists with interests in academic commercial translation. At first, Annie was hesitant to apply to this program that she had never heard of before, as she was not sure how to balance her full-time work in a demanding lab with the additional job responsibilities. Shortly after the online post, one of her co-workers joined this Pitt program. As she swiftly heard their stories about the rewarding work involving Pitt investigators and their translational research projects, she decided to send an application. That Pitt program that she applied to was sciVelo, now part of the Innovation Institute.

Annie joined sciVelo in November 2016 after a rigorous hiring process and she started contributing to academic commercial translation on Pitt’s campus as a Commercial Translation Architect. sciVelo’s mission is to engage in research of impact by identifying, cultivating and advancing Pitt’s most promising life and health sciences translational research over 7 thematic areas. Little did she know at the time, her role in sciVelo would propel her into a career that has been her calling and has inspired her the most.

“I realized quickly that joining sciVelo fulfilled important learning and development opportunities for skills that were different from my full-time research, such as project management and goal-oriented team culture, thanks to my wonderful mentors Dr. Jeremy Kimmel, Dr. Andrew Brown and Dr. Don Taylor.”

Since she joined sciVelo, Annie supported sciVelo’s commercialization goals through her work in the Pediatric Device Initiative (PDI) and the Michigan-Pittsburgh-Wyss Regenerative Medicine Resource Center (MPWRM). For about a year, she has been part of sciVelo’s new office at the UPMC Children’s Hospital, working with Ross Beresford (Program Manager at sciVelo-CHP Office). During her time at sciVelo, Annie helped dozens of investigators with filing invention disclosures to the Innovation Institute directed them toward non-traditional funding mechanisms, and assisted in writing proposals for advancing their research, all supporting sciVelo’s mission of “top-of-the-funnel” commercial translation – a term coined by sciVelo meaning the advancement of the science prior to intellectual property filing and licensing. Annie remarks that meeting Pitt researchers and learning about their innovations has been the most enjoyable part of her sciVelo experience and every meeting with a researcher gives her hope that we are making progress towards solving big problems in healthcare.
"Annie was a core part of our sciVelo-CHP team at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and a driving factor in our early success. Throughout Annie’s time at sciVelo-CHP, she consistently led our invention disclosure delivery pipeline across all sciVelo themes. Most notably Annie assisted dozens of investigators to ensure their respective projects maintained momentum toward commercial translation. All of which are still ongoing today thanks to Annie’s hard work during our early engagement with the project teams."

Ross Beresford (Program Manager at sciVelo-CHP Office)

After more than 3 fulfilling years at sciVelo in a part-time capacity, Annie is ready to transition to a full-time focus that has been her calling. Annie has joined the Purdue University Office of Technology Commercialization on the Licensing and Business Development team, where she will work as a Licensing Associate as part of a multidisciplinary team to assess potential commercial impact of new inventions made by Purdue University inventors.

In her new role, Annie will be conducting market research and opportunity assessment for Purdue-developed technologies; working towards initial identification and engagement with external stakeholders such as potential licensees, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, assisting with licensing agreements and monitoring contract compliance.
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“sciVelo has taught me to be self-confident as a commercial translation leader. Technology assessments, project management, writing invention disclosures, developing faculty relationships and outreach, teamwork, leadership abilities and business development were all essential requirements for the Licensing Associate role at Purdue University and I am proud to say that I acquired all these commercial translation skills at sciVelo.” - Annie Ghosh, PhD
Annie believes that technology transfer will be moving at a rapid pace in the next 5-10 years as more companies and venture capital firms recognize that universities and research institutes are a treasure trove of potential intellectual property and translational research collaboration. She believes that the federal funding agencies and other traditional organizations will invest even more in translational funding for early stage technologies at universities.
“Annie is prime example of how perseverance and getting out of one’s comfort zone will lead to career success. Academic commercial translation support is hard to do – it requires combining a deep knowledge of science and business and having the ability to lead and influence others to follow a disciplined plan to commercial implementation. Academic commercial translation also requires exquisite coordination among complex organizational structures to get things done. I am proud for how much Annie invested in overcoming these challenges and both Pitt and the investigators she served are for the better. Annie will be a potent technology transfer and commercial translation leader at Purdue and we are grateful for her contributions here at Pitt.”

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

sciVelo is proud of Annie’s accomplishments and excited about her new role. Annie’s career in academic commercialization has started at Pitt and it will continue to grow at Purdue University. To Annie, this new chapter may even satisfy her mother’s encouragement for her to be part of the commercialization of the next blockbuster cancer drug.