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Meet the 2018 Leaders of Tomorrow (Part 1)

GapSummit 2018 is now less than two months away, with this year’s attendees currently hard at work on their proposals for the Voices of Tomorrow competition. GapSummit never fails to bring to light many great ideas generated by the global community of young biotechnologists, and the passion and drive displayed by these young leaders should serve as a source of inspiration for new and established professionals alike. We would like to take the chance to share with you the stories of some of the 2018 Leaders of Tomorrow and what led them to apply to this year’s GapSummit.

Today we would like to introduce Sasha Tolstoy and Klara Kulenkampff, originally from Copenhagen and Munich, and discuss their views of the biggest strengths and challenges facing the bio-economy in their respective countries.

Meet Sasha Tolstoy:

Currently a Master of Science student in Molecular Biomedicine at University of Copenhagen, Sasha is researching in the field of experimental neuroscience. She is also part of the non-profit organisation Synapse, where she has led an international seminar held in the UK for top Danish students and organised interactive workshops to bridge the gap between academia and the life science industry.

Sasha is greatly inspired by biotech innovations and personalized medicines emerging in the industry and hopes to meet people from diverse backgrounds at GapSummit 2018 to tackle global issues in innovative ways.

What do you think is the biggest strength of the bio-economy in your country and what do you consider the most critical factor holding it back?

I believe Danes’ most prominent asset is having the will to do something for Mother Earth. As a stepping-stone towards a sustainable bioeconomy, Denmark has been entering international collaborations, such as the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Nordic Bioeconomy Panel with the Danish think-tank Sustainia.

Corporate giants are maintaining our bioeconomy, but sustainable growth requires constant innovation.

In the private sphere, the Danish company Arla has unlocked the full potential of raw materials such as whey by turning a previously low-valued by-product into new revenue. They are also successfully transforming cheese-waste into protein powder. DONG Energy has invented a new method for separating organic waste from plastic, glass, and metals and thus improved the use of the organic fraction of household waste. Corporate giants are maintaining our bioeconomy, but sustainable growth requires constant innovation. I believe we need more innovation workshops for young students and important changes to Danish legislation to make it financially easier for new startups to emerge and prosper.

Meet Klara Kulenkampff:

Klara is a PhD student at the Centre for Misfolding Disease at the University of Cambridge undertaking a project on an in silico design method to develop antibodies targeting tau, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. She also has a keen interest in entrepreneurship and has previously worked for two start-ups, Flixbus and Kinexon, when she was studying at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich.

Klara hopes to meet a lot of interesting participants from different fields at GapSummit 2018 to grow her network in the life science industry and to find partners for future opportunities.

What do you think is the biggest strength of the bio-economy in your country and what do you consider the most critical factor holding it back?

From what I have experienced, Germany has a large advantage as compared to other countries, namely there is a lot of research funding available, either from industry or government sources. This is reflected in well-equipped labs and a high standard of research quality at universities and independent research institutes. The funding is quite well distributed across labs from all parts of Germany and labs with biomedical aims, such as in cancer or neurodegenerative disease research, are especially well funded.

These fields often raise a discussion about fundamental ethical questions, which delay the decision-making on regulations and applications in research.

I feel that German society, however, is often conservative in entering new fields of research, especially when it comes to fields touching the boundaries of nature such as gene modification. These fields often raise a discussion about fundamental ethical questions, which delay the decision-making on regulations and applications in research. Compared to other countries, a lot of actions regarding gene editing are very restricted and I have the feeling that this presents a disadvantage.

Categories: Blog

Tags: Leaders of Tomorrow, GapSummit 2018

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