In 2019, I spent 4 months as a PhD Intern at APIS Assay Technologies Ltd., funded by the MRC Innovation Placement Funding. APIS is a start-up company, based in Manchester, in its first year of business, with the aim of developing biomarker-based diagnostic assays targeting oncology, inflammatory, cardiovascular, infectious and inherited diseases.
APIS aims to help realise the clinical and commercial potential of genomic medicine in the diagnosis and stratification of treatment, and in the prediction and prevention of disease. I was keen to gain practical experience in a variety of bioinformatics and molecular biology techniques within a commercially-geared research setting, building on the scientific and technical knowledge already gained during my PhD research.
During my internship, APIS put emphasis on a comprehensive training program that included: diagnostic assay development, primer/probe design in a multiplex reaction, RNA extractions, qRT-PCR and GLP (good lab practice). I learnt to extract RNA from FFPE tissue, assess for RNA quality and integrity, and screen primer-probe combinations I had designed for various diagnostic projects.
This internship also gave me a unique business-driven perspective to developing a diagnostic assay. I was an active member of a biomarker roadmap team researching potential commercialisation of novel biomarkers for a certain disease. This gave me the opportunity to transfer my research skills gained from my PhD to a more clinical and industrial setting. Working on this biomarker roadmap was invaluable as it provided experience on calculating the total and serviceable addressable market, intellectual property and patents, and a general overview of a start-up company’s business priorities.
The highlight of my internship was the people I met, colleagues I worked with and all the friends I made during my time at APIS. The welcoming, supportive and inclusive culture at APIS allowed me to go to bed on Sunday night looking forward to Monday morning.
The technical development and training provided at APIS has been invaluable, not only will it benefit my future experiments and analyses but it has also added value to my thesis research and been of interest to other PhD colleagues and our lab. As well as inspiring me to work outside academia, APIS provided a vast number of insights I would not normally have expected to acquire during my PhD journey, and for which I am very thankful.
I would like to thank the MRC for enabling me to complete this internship. I consider it to have been of great benefit to me personally and professionally, and I will be encouraging other DiMeN students to pursue similar opportunities.