The Future of NGS with Mirna Jarosz
On exciting discoveries enabled by NGS:
I’m super excited about immuno-oncology. When I was first getting into the oncology space ten years ago, targeted therapies were a really big thing, and that was finding driving mutations and developing drugs that target that. That could be miraculous, but they never lasted very long and it really wasn’t curative. Now, with immuno-oncology, you see metastatic disease in what appears to be a curative stage. It’s super exciting. So there are some therapeutic approaches that don’t really rely on NGS, but they don’t work on very many cancer types, so if you really want to get to an approach where you can totally personalize a therapy and a vaccine, you need to start characterizing those neo-antigens and doing NGS. It’s really critical to totally characterize the immune profile and neo-antigen profile to try to get that pretty miraculous therapy to more people – that’s something I’m really excited about.
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Another one that has started to take off for NGS is infectious disease. Rather than treating symptoms and figuring out what you could culture in three to five days, actually just looking for anything and everything that might be disease-causing, with NGS you can quickly target with the right anti-microbial and anti-fungal agents, and that’s very cool and starting to take off.
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Part of it is that different way of approaching problems, by saying 'How can we help you?' But there’s something at the core of IDT that keeps me here, and that is that we are very customer-, science-, and problem-driven. I know we’re here to make a profit, but I feel like we get there by focusing on the other things, rather than sacrificing either integrity or customers or our long-term vision. It feels cheesy to say, but it does feel deeper. The state of human life and health, I feel like we’re a part of that. It is rewarding to feel like you can make a difference.
On products designed and supported by real bench scientists:
I think that’s extremely important. That’s who we are, and if we did not do that we would not succeed. I describe traditional sales maybe from another company as, 'Here are all the products I have, how can I sell these to you?’ IDT’s approach is, ‘Tell me about the science you’re doing, and the problems you have—how can we help?’ I don’t really know other companies that do that, and it’s pretty unique and really powerful.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
What is exciting—and daunting—is diving deep into what we’re doing that’s working and what we’re doing that isn’t working. We are trying to shake things up and make big differences, and while it’s not really a good way to make friends by telling everyone all the things they could be doing differently, it’s exciting because I feel like there’s so much potential. It can be daunting because we’re going to have to try a lot of things that don’t work.