To provide a range of innovative tools for accelerating drug development, InnoSer brings people from both scientific and business backgrounds together. With our interview series ‘A day in the life of’, let’s take a glimpse into what it is like to be part of this small but versatile and dynamic team!
BSc Biotechnology (specialty cell & gene technology)
Cell culture, animal models, imaging
With InnoSer since
This month, our Senior Research Associate Sarah completes her first year at InnoSer. Her main focus has been on the PDX/O project: a platform that combines patient derived xenografts (PDX), and patient derived organoids (PDO) for preclinical research services. As the names tell, the platform is based on samples collected from cancer patients, paving the way for personalized medicine.
“I love my current role working with the PDX/O platform. It involves a lot of different tasks, which makes it all a fun challenge. New ideas and experiments keep each day interesting!” says Sarah. Since her work combines in vitro and in vivo methods, she keeps herself busy either in the cell culture labs or in the animal facility in Diepenbeek, located at BioVille. “Although COVID-19 had some impact on sample collection from patients at the hospital, we kept everything up and running and expect to make the project a success within the original timeframe.”
Sarah’s workday starts with driving to BioVille, or at occasional summer weekends, with a bike ride. “I come into the office and check my e-mails. After that, I usually have my to-do list for that day so I either move to the in vivo or in vitro lab.” In vitro work mostly entails expanding (growing) cells in a 3D culture. Sarah checks them daily under the microscope to know exactly which cultures are doing well. Similarly, she keeps a close eye on the PDX mice. “I weigh them and check the growth of implants weekly.” Thanks to InnoSer’s new in vivo imaging equipment, Sarah can start doing this by collecting visual readouts.
Organoids under the microscope.
Some days, Sarah remains in the office to analyze the data on our PDX/O projects, write reports or update project records. “PDX/O is a very interesting project. Quality is very important and every little thing needs to be properly documented.” The team tries to discover as much as they can about each tumor. They analyze the tumor DNA and morphology by using sequencing, imaging, and histological methods. With this work, they both develop a well-validated model and offer clients research services.
Sarah at the in vitro lab.
“What I like a lot is that we are a strong team with lots of different characters and different ideas. We think together and do our utmost to make InnoSer a success story.” Sarah says she has a ‘we can do this’ mentality, which works very well at InnoSer’s collaborative environment. “Every person in this team is equally important, that’s the atmosphere created here. The management believes in its employees. I was also really eager to grow and already on my first day here, a whole new skill box opened for me, with still more to discover and master!” Despite differences in their schedules, the team also gets together around 10am for a coffee break and around 1pm for lunch.
“I usually check the in vitro lab before I go home. Are the blinds down? Is everything shut down? Is the lab tidy enough?” Sarah advises with a smile on her face: “Don’t leave a mess behind when Laura and I are around!” After leaving InnoSer’s facilities, Sarah usually drives directly to her sports club. “I do crossfit at 2 different places so I need to make sure I have enough energy left to survive another hour of intensive sports. And that brings me to the end of my day.”
Sarah studied Agro and Biotechnology in the Cell and Gene Technology department of Hogeschool PXL, where she also received Environmental Coordinator degree. Her first experience at Tigenix, a cell therapy company, taught her many skills and allowed her to acquire a FELASA (laboratory animal science) certificate. She then spent almost 11 years at Apitope, a then newly started clinical stage biotech, where she worked on various in vivo and in vitro experiments, became Apitope’s biosafety and prevention officer, and implemented a quality system using her knowledge in quality assurance. Supported by InnoSer, Sarah is currently following the quality management program at the KULeuven, with direct implementations to InnoSer’s quality management system updates.