Senior Linna Gao Uses Entrepreneur Grant to Mix Science and Business

Linna Gao ’12

Linna Gao ’12 embodies the ideal liberal art student. Although she’s a neuroscience major, she is minoring in French, makes art and plays classical piano. (At this fall’s Bowdoin Convocation, she performed Franz Liszt’s Etude de concert in D-flat Major, “Un Sospiro.”) And while she’s fascinated with science, she’s also interested in business, and hopes after graduation to find a job that fuses the two.

This summer she received a Thomas Andrew McKinley ’06 Entrepreneur Grant from Bowdoin to work for a biotech start-up affiliated with Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The start-up is developing a tumor-suppressing cancer treatment with no toxic side effects.

The Bowdoin Daily Sun caught up with Gao recently to ask about her summer experience.

Bowdoin Daily Sun: What was your role in the biotech start-up this summer?

Linna Gao: I assisted the research lab at Children’s Hospital and Dr. Randolph Watnick in entrepreneurial pursuits, including finding investors and doing market research for reports that summarize the field, the competitive landscape for funding, and [Prosaposin’s] advantages over other therapies. … Prosaposin blocks tumor growth without the physical and emotional turmoil caused by grueling and damaging therapies such as chemotherapy, which destroys healthy cells as well as cancerous ones. Prosaposin therapy treatment would have no toxic side effects, and it would be very unlikely for patients to develop a resistance to the drug since it activates natural tumor-suppressing processes in the body.

Linna Gao giving a presentation on Prosaposin

I helped develop presentations on past and current research to potential investors and venture capitalists to fund the lab’s research progress and the biotech company. I was also a liaison with the hospital’s Technology, Innovation and Development Office, and worked with the case manager for Dr. Watnick’s intellectual property at Boston Children’s Hospital. In addition to learning how the commercialization process works, I also acquired familiarization of the research conducted in Dr. Watnick’s laboratory. I took part in pharmacodynamics experiments, which furthered our understanding of the peptide function’s properties. This knowledge is critical for future preclinical and clinical studies and is also extremely relevant to the presentations I helped compile for meetings.

BDS: What did you learn from your internship?

LG: I am now absolutely certain I want to find a career path that will combine science and business. I plan to pursue opportunities that do so, and subsequently define my career niche before returning to graduate school to further my knowledge in a specific scientific research field.

BDS: What was the most meaningful aspect of your internship?

LG: This experience has shown me how immensely rewarding it is to follow a pursuit that is beneficial to society and people. Knowing that I took part in the fight against cancer through furthering the development of a research discovery that could cure those in need has been indescribably meaningful to me. Having lost a loved relative to cancer, it gave me a sense of purpose every day knowing that the work I was doing would help benefit society.

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