Kathy is one of our DNA Day 2016 experts.
Senior Manager, Business Development and Research, Ontario Genomics
I was born/grew up in: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I now live in: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I completed my training/education at: Honours BSc, Western University; MSc and PhD, University of Toronto
Describe what you do at work.
I spend my time reading, learning, thinking and exchanging ideas with people. I used to spend a lot of time at the bench doing experiments in my early career days but now mostly sit at my desk, using my computer to link to the world. I take the opportunity to meet face to face with people as often as possible, and attend conferences around the world to learn more and meet people in my field. I work with researchers and companies to develop applications for funding for very large scale, multi-million dollar projects that use genomics. If they get the funding, I continue to meet regularly to ensure that the project is on track.
I also work with government representatives to keep them informed of progress in genomics and in particular to help make sure that the government is aware of and will help implement new innovations in health coming from genomic inventions. The problem I am helping solve is how we can best use genomic information to improve health. My undergraduate and graduate degrees all involved genomics, which allows me to understand and keep up with new discoveries in genomics. After graduating I also acquired an understanding of the business side of medical science with experience in a biotechnology company and in a venture capital company that invested in healthcare companies. Both the business experience and knowledge of genomics help me in my current job of helping new genomic technologies get to the market.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect people’s lives?
First and most directly, I help researchers and companies get funding, which helps them advance their technologies and funds jobs. Secondly, the work that is being funded will bring new and better technologies to the healthcare market, so that we can all stay healthy or get better faster. Finally, I help grow the economy as new companies are founded and grow based on genomics.
What motivates you in your career?
This is a really amazing time to be working in the field of genomics. Because we can sequence an entire human genome and analyze it in a matter of a few weeks, and for a reasonable price, we are rapidly learning how to use genomic information of individuals to improve healthcare and how to develop much more effective, targeted and less toxic treatments. I get to work with really smart and motivated people and can help them take their idea from the bench and get it to the market.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
I began with a basic science degree at Western. I didn't like the job prospects with that degree and so went to graduate school, earning both an MSc and a PhD in the same lab at the Ontario Cancer Institute (now the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre). I wanted to work on applying science rather than straight research and my first real job was as a scientist at a biotechnology company, where I worked on discovering new drugs to treat atherosclerosis (the accumulation of plaque in arteries). I learned a lot about how to discover new drugs, how to test them in clinical trials, and how to get them to market. I applied this knowledge in the next job, helping make investments in medical science companies at the venture capital firm Lumira Capital.
A left turn took me to being a CEO of a startup medical device company (fun and hard), then I got back to genomics at my current position at Ontario Genomics. My two main challenges were (1) doubting myself and not giving myself credit, and (2) working against sexism. The solution to both has been to do good work and make sure to get noticed.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
For fun I read, binge watch Netflix shows, cook and bake, and get outside with our dogs. I cannot not be active - I cycle, run, practice yoga, swim, paddle a canoe - anything to be active and preferably outside.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
Do what you love and do it the best you can - opportunities will happen - take them!