5 Questions with Dan Gincel, PhD, Executive Director, MD Stem Cell Research Fund at TEDCO
“5 Questions With……” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people in the BioHealth Capital Region to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. We’re grateful to have Dan Gincel as our 4th guest.
In his dual roles as Vice President for University Partnerships at the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) and Executive Director of the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund (MSCRF), Dr. Gincel oversees programs on university research, tech transfer, commercialization and innovation that contribute to Maryland’s economic growth. His experience in and outside of the laboratory has made him a proven leader and champion for university research and development. He is dedicated to increasing research capacity for Maryland scientists, supporting cutting-edge technology development, and ultimately, developing cures for debilitating diseases. Dan received his BS and PhD in biochemistry and neuroscience from the Ben-Gurion University, Israel, and his postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University.
1. What was your first job/role in biotech?
I actually never worked in a biotech company, throughout my career, I worked on multiple company projects while still in academia. I had projects with small startup companies as well as with large pharma companies. The experience was not very different, it was always data driven and not product or commercialization driven. Basically, I had to transfer the technology that I developed at a university lab bench into processes and SOPs that could be replicated and performed in a repeatable way by lab technicians. In other cases, it was to perform a research service for a fee, when companies did not have the expertise, space, animal facilities or personnel to do the experiment themselves. I enjoyed the work but have always been more connected to patient-driven, mission-driven work of not-for-profits such as disease foundations or scientific associations. This is why I was drawn to my current role with the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund and TEDCO.
2. What can you tell us about your current role and company?
TEDCO was created in 1998 by the legislators in Maryland to help universities and federal labs commercialize their technologies. Over the years the legislators added additional programs and responsibilities to be managed by TEDCO, relevant to incubators, venture funding and others. In 2006 the legislators created the Maryland Stem Cell Research Act and within it the Fund (MSCRF) that I am the Executive Director of. I also serve as VP for university partnerships at TEDCO. The MSCRF mission is to develop new medical strategies for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of human diseases, injuries and conditions through human stem cells. Although our office is in Columbia, MD (and during this healthcare crisis we work remotely), we cover the whole state. We offer six funding programs to accelerate discovery and commercialization of human cell therapy and stem cell-based technologies. To learn more about the field and access regenerative medicine news and updates, please download our App.
3. What do you think is the biggest gap in this industry, and how would you suggest closing it?
The regenerative medicine industry is a global industry. Most diseases that have a therapy on the market are ultra-rare diseases, thus the treatments are extremely expensive ranging from several hundred thousand dollars to a few million. This cannot be sustained, especially as we are developing treatments to more common diseases and conditions. Cost effective manufacturing of cell-based therapy products is important to allow the field to grow. We are always challenging our awardees to keep this in mind and address these issues as they are moving forward with their products.
4. What advice do you have for somebody looking to get into your field in this industry?
COVID-19 aside, this is the right place and the right time to be in this industry. The regenerative medicine field is growing, companies are expanding and the science is moving from university labs to commercial, process development and manufacturing faster than ever. I think the strength we have in Maryland in advanced therapy manufacturing should allow many people to join these leading companies- we have in our state some of the leading companies in the world. There are opportunities in different career stages and with different expertise.
5. What is your favorite musical memory? Concert or buying your first album. (Tell us about it)
Growing up in Israel I listened to local music as well as American but mostly British artists. We didn’t have many live concerts so MTV was the favorite channel to learn what was trending and to explore new artists. However, growing up in a small town, I think the one artist I followed the most is probably Bruce Springsteen. His early albums, music and lyrics influenced my life and I continue to follow his work today.
Thanks to Dan Gincel for participating in the ‘5 Questions with BioBuzz’ series and stay tuned for more interviews with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region.