- Please tell us something about your journey. You have an academic background and now you are a very successful businessman. What made you change your path from academia to industry?
Sure! I’m Colm Ryan Ph.D., co-founder, and CEO at Assay Genie. I was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug at the very tender age of 10 when I opened my first business – a candy shop in my parent’s bar! After that, I fell in love with the business, and coupled with my passion for science, starting a life science business was a dream of mine. So, after completing my Ph.D. in the UK and post-doctoral research in France, I then took a role as a scientific application specialist.
My main drivers to transition from academia to industry was a mix of serendipity and necessity. While I love science, I felt very frustrated at the bench and coupled with my experiences working part-time in the family business and the service industry, thought that a commercial role would suit me. That opportunity arose when my first child was due to be born and I had to make the choice between pursuing a career with little security, uncertain hours, and low pay or one that would allow me to utilize my strengths and potentially develop a nice career. Thankfully, while there have been many twists and turns, it has worked out pretty well!
2. What are your visions with Assay Genie? Please tell us about your company and how Assay Genie is solving the problems of researchers.
During my scientific training, I realized the need for a new kind of assay company – one that makes scientists smile through innovative products, quirky marketing, and great interactions with our team! In March 2017, we opened our doors at Assay Genie for the first time. In the past 4 years, we (Assay Genie) have launched over 50,000 ELISA, antibodies, assays, and proteins. We have been very fortunate to have provided scientists from Boston to Beijing with the tools they require to make the discoveries of tomorrow. Our vision is to be the biggest life science reagents provider in the World. In doing so, we will help scientists optimize workflows, speed up discoveries and save precious research dollars along the way. Our technology is already doing this! For example, our GeniePlex multiplex ELISA allows researchers to do 1-24 ELISA simultaneously in the same well with only 15 ul of the sample! This will save a scientist 80 hours and $6,000 versus ELISA and as a scientist at heart, this makes me really happy.
3. What are the lacks you see in academia that need to be addressed for equipping people for a successful transition into the industry?
That is a great question and one that has not been fully addressed. I did my undergraduate degree in Trinity College Dublin and while it gave me a phenomenal grounding in science, it was primarily geared to training the next generation of academics. Therefore, there was little support for students wishing to move into industry/commercial roles in the form of internships or mentorship. I feel this is slowly changing but clearly universities around the World need to do more to equip science graduates for life outside of academia and indeed, outside of science.
4. What one advice you will give to the people who are in academic set up but want to pursue career in industry?
For me, the best thing that happened was going to a career guidance counsellor prior to finishing my PhD. She was first and foremost a counsellor who helped me really understand myself as well as what I truly wanted to do and achieve. This created the groundwork to move forward with my career. I feel that you truly need to understand yourself and have a clear mind to develop a concise career plan. Start by speaking to people in your network and see what cool roles are out there that you might like. Like the scientist that you are, plan and implement the plan and don’t be afraid of the inevitable rejections.
5. COVID-19 pandemic affected every industry. With the budget cut in research, what are the future challenges you see in your business and how we should be prepared for any future pandemic?
Yes, COVID-19 has been particularly hard for a huge number of people and I truly feel incredibly fortunate to have been insulated from it in our industry. Moreover, I feel there is a greater than ever public interest in science and as public opinion drives government policies, I predict that scientific funding, especially translational and clinical research will increase in the coming years. This is great news for scientists, the public and of course, patients.
6. Please tell us how you enjoy your free time.
I love staying fit – cycling, running, and hiking. I also try to sing and play guitar and while that’s good fun with my son, I don’t think my work colleagues appreciate the lunchtime guitar sessions as much 😉