Summer by Design - a summer course in Toronto

Elias Uhlin, doctoral student from Anna Falk research group at Karolinska Institutet participated in a summer workshop in Toronto thanks to the well established collaboration with University of Toronto . We asked him some questions about his experience.

Elias Uhlin, PhD student

What is your area of research?

The focus of my projects has been to design, derive and manufacture clinically relevant human iPS cells in compliance with GMP. Cells manufactured specifically to be used as a starting material for the derivation of cell therapies. We have also looked into ways of creating off the shelf therapy for spinal cord injury using cryopreserved iPS cell-derived neuroepithelial stem cells.

Why did you chose to apply to the workshop Summer in Design?

I chose to apply because the course content was on a very specific topic, highly relevant to my projects. Many of the topics covered are rarely taught in the academic settings and there are no similar courses available at KI.

What did you do during the course at the University of Toronto?

The bulk of the course is material is covered in daily lectures on everything from cell therapy design, working with regulatory authorities, founding a startup, attracting venture capital and much more. We also took part in various site visits and were tasked with creating a pitch based on our own projects and received coaching from experts. The course also presents a fantastic opportunity to network with other PhD students working on similar projects and with faculty and company representatives. The course also offered opportunities to visit laboratories at the University of Toronto.

Did you learn anything that you will be able to put into practice during your doctoral education?

Absolutely. My only wish was that I could have gone earlier during my PhD, it would have saved me many hours of confused fact-finding. I came out of the course with an excellent overview of what goes into designing and commercialization cell therapies. The possibility to interact with the experts and digging into the specifics valid for your project also was immensely helpful.

What will you be bringing home with you from the workshop?

This course filled the "missing link" between industry and academia. My project and many others balance in a no man’s land were many skills required are not touched upon in Master’s program or PhD courses. Topics like clinical relevant manufacturing or dealing with regulatory agencies are rarely thought in academia but essential for heading successful translational projects.

What is your impression of Toronto?

Toronto is an interesting place, hot in the summer and icy cold in the winter. Surprisingly livable for its size and home to some of the most friendly large city populations on the planet. One of the biggest pleasures is having a drink and chatting with locals. If you like sightseeing there are several nice tours to take and plenty of day trips to be made in the beautiful Ontario province. Personal recommendation is to rent a car and head east through the thousand islands region.

Do you have any recommendations for students/researchers wanting to do a attend a course/workshop or do a  lab visit/research visit in at the University of Toronto?

Do it. You will not regret it. Karolinska instituted and the University of Toronto have a well-established collaboration and I have been participating in two courses organized by the University of Toronto. I have always been well received, had housing taken care of and the quality of the courses have been extraordinary.