Innovation in Medicine

Meet the 2021-22 Co-Presidents!

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Stanford Biotech Group Co-Presidents

The Stanford Biotech Group welcomed new co-presidents in 2021: Sai Gourisankar and Julien Roth. Sai is a 5th year PhD candidate in chemical engineering who researches the epigenetics of brain development and gene regulation. A fellow Stanford PhD candidate, Julien is pursuing stem cell biology and regenerative medicine as a member of the Heilshorn Biomaterials Group. Hear how they got here and their fresh perspectives on biotech in the new year: 

Q: What was your background before Stanford, and what brought you here? 

Sai: I’m from Texas and did my undergrad in both chemical engineering and liberal arts at UT Austin. I didn’t know I would pursue science initially; I started working in history, public policy and on urban poverty issues. But, I was really excited by the science in modern medicine and thought that I could make a big impact on health – which made me come to Stanford.

Julien: I graduated from UC San Diego in 2015 with degrees in Physiology and Neuroscience and Psychology. Following my experiences working with patients with severe neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, I became motivated to leverage the potential of stem cells to create novel platforms for understanding and treating neurological disorders. I’m exploring the interface between bioengineering, bioinformatics, and stem cell neurobiology.

Q: What areas of biotech are you most passionate about?

Sai: Scientifically – I love the innovations around new types of induced-proximity therapeutics, such as PROTACS/LYTACS. I’m also enthusiastic about genetically-driven therapeutic targets that go directly from large-scale human genetic data to gene therapies: look at the BCL11A story in hemoglobinopathies, for example, or PCSK9 and cholesterol. We’ll see what happens clinically!

Julien: While I may be biased, I am very passionate about the prospect of enhancing our ability to create in vitro models of the human brain and, in turn, of leveraging such a model system towards both improving our understanding of key developmental processes and performing massively parallel screens of promising pharmaceuticals. As more and more biotechnology companies commit to integrating these systems into their preclinical pipelines (and as the models themselves continue to become more biomimetic), I believe we will more quickly develop effective treatments for a collection of the most pernicious disorders and diseases.

Q: In your eyes, what does the future of biotech hold? 

Sai: There’s going to be really promising precision medicine technology commercialized in multiple areas, from therapeutics to diagnostics to devices – but there’ll be some tension about its accessibility, affordability, and ultimate impact on patients. 

Julien: The future of biotech is one dominated by personalized medicine. Recent advances in a wide array of fields from wearables to in vitro human model systems to genomics (as well transcriptomics and epigenetics) have precipitated great interest in the prospect of high throughput yet highly specialized diagnostics and therapeutics. I am optimistic that this interest is just the beginning, and that patients around the world will soon benefit from tangible improvements in their healthcare.

Q: What impact do you want to have as a leader of Stanford Biotech Group? 

Sai: We’ve grown tremendously in our membership and outreach the last few years thanks to the hard work of our entire leadership team. I’d like to steer that growth and make it inclusive to all students, departments, and identities at Stanford. In addition, we’d like to connect to more aspects of biotech- from startups, to big pharma, to policy – as well as diverse geographies. 

Julien: As a co-president of the Stanford Biotechnology Group, I am eager to continue to build upon the great foundation SBG has in the local biotechnology space. Specifically, I am motivated to expand the reach of SBG (with respect to the size, scope, and breadth of its events) by cultivating partnerships with both venture firms as well as biotechnology companies.

About the author
Morgan Kiss
Morgan is a second-year MBA student at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Prior to Stanford, she was a Manager of Corporate Development at Axel Johnson Inc, a private investment firm based in New York, NY. She led thesis-driven investing efforts in the healthcare and life sciences and developed long-term strategy and growth initiatives for portfolio companies. She’s interested in commercializing biotechnology and applying synthetic biology tools to drive impact in drug discovery and industry broadly.




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