Summer school inspires budding entrepreneur scientist

The Crick recently hosted a new summer school for data scientists to pair up with biomedical scientists and learn the basic principles of entrepreneurship. Rakhee Chauhan talks about her experience of the Data Science x Biomedical Science Summer School and what it has meant for her future career plans. 


Rakhee Chauhan.

What is your current role at the Crick?

I am a multidisciplinary postdoctoral scientist and I work on a protein called the RET receptor, looking at how it can cause cancer. Most recently my work has focused on a rare disease called MEN2. MEN2 is caused by mutations in RET gene and can cause thyroid and adrenal gland cancers along with a host of other symptoms. My work looks at how and why precise positioning of the mutation can cause different symptoms in patients with MEN2. Understanding this will hopefully lead to better treatments for MEN2 disease in the future. 

This year I also co-founded the RET Research Collaborative Network, RET@Crick, which brought researchers, clinicians and a patient support group together to facilitate collaboration and knowledge exchange.

It is amazing to know that if I wanted to I could try setting up my own business and that there is so much support out there.

I think the future of science will be based on all disciplines fully working together to get a handle on the complexity of biology. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will have a huge impact in the next stage of scientific progress.

I applied for the summer school as I wanted to get some hands-on experience of communicating and working with data scientists to see what we could achieve together.

Tell us a bit more about the summer school

The summer school was a four-day crash course on how to be an entrepreneur and set up your own start-up! It was jointly run by the Crick, Entrepreneur First and the Alan Turing Institute to encourage researchers to translate their ideas into businesses. The focus was on combining expertise from biomedical scientists with data scientists (particularly in the exciting field of AI and machine learning) to solve real world problems. 

The programme included a fascinating line up of talks including how to find your edge, identifying and framing your problem, how to protect your idea, funding and communication. There were lots of group exercises promoting communication and interaction between scientists from different areas.

The aim was to find a co-founder with a complementary set of skills to your own and work together brainstorming, researching and presenting your start-up idea. Everyone pitched their ideas at the end of the summer school and the range, variety and quality was amazing to see. Several of the groups are currently pursuing the ideas they came up with together which is so inspirational from a four-day summer school!

It has demystified the start-up process and shown me that it is a real option for scientists like me.

I teamed up with Amit Samani, a PhD student at the Crick and Charlie Mathews, a data scientist specialising in machine learning from Edinburgh. Our business idea was to improve the recruitment, advertising, access and information on new clinical trials. With Amit’s background as a clinician, my experience working very closely with clinicians and patient representative groups and Charlie’s machine learning expertise we had the right combined experience to turn our idea into a start-up.

What were your biggest takeaways from the summer school?

I absolutely loved the summer school, it was one of the most positive and energising experiences I have been involved with. It has demystified the start-up process and shown me that it is a real option for scientists like me. I previously held the misconception that you needed the perfect idea, team and complete financial freedom to set up a start-up. The summer school, KQ Labs at the Crick and Entrepreneur First’s programme has shown me how much support there is out there for aspiring entrepreneurs. 

I feel like I gained a better understanding of entrepreneurship, what I’ve really taken away is that anyone with enough drive can do it. It is amazing to know that if I wanted to I could try setting up my own business and that there is so much support out there. 

What are your plans for the future?

Since the summer school I have maintained close links with Entrepreneur First and KQ Labs and am keen to apply to the Entrepreneur First programme when I finish my postdoc! 

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