With Astarte Since: 2018
Alma Mater: B.S. in Biology, Grand Valley State University
Alma Mater: M.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology, Colorado State University–Pueblo
Years of Experience: 16+ years
Nate, what is your primary role as a Research Associate at Astarte?
Because of the nature of our laboratory — offering top-quality primary cell lines and associated products along with an ever increasing set of contract research capabilities — my time is mainly divided between quality control, production, and research development.
What interesting research projects have you been working on recently?
We are working with several clients, and always have new clients asking us to solve their needs. Though I cannot divulge the specifics of our clients’ research, I can say we have been expanding our contract research capabilities including the use of BD Canto with 8-color Flow Cytometry and real-time, individual cell-based analysis using our new IncuCyte S3 machine.
What research services are you most passionate about providing?
Providing comprehensive, customizable experimentation based on individual customer requirements. We have the unique ability to adapt to the customer’s needs while leveraging company-wide strengths in cell-based, molecular and cellular, or real-time, cell-based immunological research. This allows us to provide several analytical platforms, such as 8-color Flow Cytometry, multicolor live cell imaging, and cellular-based assays, based on and customized to the customer’s request.
Do you have a favorite piece of equipment in the lab or a go-to protocol?
I tend to utilize a combination of analytical instrumentation, general purpose equipment, and custom designed protocols for each research study. Though, I must admit, in the lab I am known as the FACSCanto guy. With my background in molecular and cellular assay development and quality control, I am adept at performing many different analytical and cellular techniques.
What led you to become a scientist?
I am not sure that I was led to becoming a scientist, but I have always been interested in the practical application of science. As a kid, I was always performing experiments, had an interest in how nature worked, and was constantly curious about the world around me. In fact, I would often combine two or three different drinks to see how they tasted. Sometimes these drink experiments worked well (cream soda and root beer) and other times they were terrible (milk and orange juice). However, I think it is important to not lose that type of curiosity about the world around us.
Any tips for young people interested in a career in biosciences?
Hard work, persistence, and continued interest in learning are what drive new scientists.
You must know that things don’t just come easy to us. We work hard and it’s not the failures that define us but the drive to continue in the face of adversity that define success.
Though, I would say that retaining a child-like curiosity about subjects that you are interested in and being open to other people’s knowledge and experience is invaluable. For example, I may have three years of experience working in neuroscience that provides me with a certain expertise in isolation culture and expansion of endothelial cell types or the development expertise in live-cell imaging and transmembrane cell signaling cascades. At the same time, a lab mate may have 10 years of experience in antibody development. Through collaboration, we can gain perspective and increase our understanding of new areas while tackling an experiment together.
What advances in research or techniques do you foresee in 2020-2021?
There have been some promising advances in tumor response in persistent and formally resistant cancer types. Scientists are working on multiple concurrent strategies for tackling the number two killer in the U.S., which is cancer. We have seen the development of CAR-T cell therapies hit the market in the last several years, and there are a couple new CAR-T therapies coming to market this year. However, due to treatment costs, these therapies are all but unattainable for most people. That is why we see several companies trying to develop “universal” CAR-T cells that do not require the patient to donate their cells for seed and all the associated cost related to that process.
Second, we see some promising HLA independent gene editing in humanized animal models. This special class of T cell uses MHC I for identification and killing all types of cancer. Interestingly, the identification of cancer cells was being downregulated by B-vitamin metabolites.
These burgeoning potential treatments along with many other approaches are transforming our understanding of how we may be able to target cancers using our own immune system. It makes working in this industry exciting. With our new and ever increasing set of contract research capabilities, we will be offering help to many research companies to determine their need and provide our insight and expertise to furthering their research in these exciting areas while continuing to expand our own antigen-specific T cell lines.
What do you like to do for fun when you’re not in the lab?
You can usually find me kayaking or fishing year-round. I also would like to start section hiking the Pacific Crest Trail here in Washington.
To learn more about Nate, connect with him on LinkedIn.