An interview with Scientific Advisor Erika Fletcher
3 juni 2021
A research journey continues at Immuneed...
To the clients she works with, Erika Fletcher’s sharp scientific mind is one of Immuneed’s strongest assets.
Erika’s work with the Immuneed platform goes back to her doctoral research, and she’s been advancing the platform ever since – first as Head of R&D, now as Scientific Advisor. We asked her about her current role, and about how she and clients continue to take the platform into new areas.
Q: What’s the difference between Head of R&D and Scientific Advisor?
A: When Immuneed was smaller, one person could be responsible for all the R&D aspects connected to our platform. Today we have many different offerings that build on the platform, so we have multiple Scientific Advisors. Each Scientific Advisor is responsible for a specific scientific area, in which they handle the interaction with clients and the related R&D.
Q: Which is your own area of specialty as Scientific Advisor?
A: My expertise is in bispecific antibodies, and especially their use in the field of oncology. Bispecifics are incredibly varied and complex, and they’re particularly applicable in oncology, where they bind both a tumor cell and an immune cell. That gives them the potential to be very good drugs, but they also pose the risk of being highly toxic. It’s an area of drug development that’s expanding rapidly, and it’s one where the Immuneed platform feels especially relevant.
Q: What advantages does the Immuneed platform offer for bispecifics?
A: What sets the Immuneed platform apart is the ability to evaluate function and safety in the same experiment. That’s perfect for bispecifics. While the safety analysis is much the same as for any drug, the functional questions for bispecifics are more complicated, because you must consider the multiple targets. For the companies that come to us with bispecifics, the ability to do many different things in a single run provides a great deal of value.
Q: And what do you as a person bring to those clients?
A: I suppose you could say I’m a thinker. That’s a good quality in my role, because the study design is my responsibility, both from a client perspective and from a scientific perspective. I work in a company, but I’m a scientist, and I have to know that the science is feasible.
That’s also the part that I like the most – the deep scientific discussion with Immuneed’s clients. I learn so much from their new ideas about therapeutic potential, and I really find joy in those exchanges. For a scientist, the most exciting thing is testing new ideas.
Q: Speaking of learning, what have you learned about the Immuneed platform in your years of working with it?
A: The platform grew out of research I did at Uppsala University with Immuneed co-founder Sara Mangsbo, who was my PhD supervisor. Yet no matter how long I’ve worked with it, the breadth of possibilities for using it continues to surprise me!
For example, working with oncology, I’ve been amazed to find out what happens when we place tumor cells in the system. We use whole blood from healthy donors in the platform, but we can add tumor cells to the assay to see how the drug interacts with the healthy immune cells. I was somewhat skeptical to the idea at first, but we’ve explored it in partnership with some of our clients. The results have been very promising, so it’s something we’ll continue to pursue.
Q: You’ll soon be taking time off to have a child. Meanwhile, Immuneed will continue to develop. What do you see yourself coming back to?
I think it’s going to be very exciting to come back. There will certainly be new people coming in while I’m away, with different backgrounds and scientific knowledge that will take things in new directions. I’ve seen that happen in just the last six months, that our processes and offerings have been enhanced by new people and the experience they’ve brought in. I’m looking forward to seeing the platform through fresh eyes, and to having all those high-level discussions with people from different immunological backgrounds – and to applying those insights with Immuneed’s clients.
Sofia is responsible for the commercial operations at Immuneed, with a strong focus on strategic marketing & customer excellence. Previously, she worked as Customer Success Manager for a technical software startup and brought her strong knowledge in customer relations management and digitalization with her to Immuneed. She graduated from the University of Gothenburg with a Master's degree in Business Creation and Entrepreneurship in Biomedicine.
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