“Our company is on the forefront of an exciting, potential medical breakthrough,” said Linda Kelash, Rebiotix’s director of R&D. Through its Microbiota Restorative Therapy (MRT) drug platform, Rebiotix can deliver healthy, live, human-derived microbes into a sick patient’s intestinal tract to help treat disease, specifically C.diff, which causes about 29,000 patient deaths a year.
Rebiotix relies on donors to compile their “human-derived microbes,” and it’s here where life-saving science meets middle school humor. During our interview with Kelash and her team, I had to inquire about the “drug samples” they kept referencing. My expectations were fully met when Kelash humorously explained that it’s basically “poop in a Cool Whip container.”
That’s one of the best things about Rebiotix and its company culture: they know how balance a fun sense of humor and earnest respect for the important work that they do.
With some assistance from the Angel Investment Tax Credit, Rebiotix and its team is only one to two years away from getting its approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. To help reach their goal, Kelash and her team decided to bring on a few extra hands and ambitious young minds to assist them with quality assurance and R&D.
These interns, hired through the SciTech Internship Program, have not only made significant contributions to Rebiotix’s development, but gained new insight into the biotech industry and the good it provides.
Meet the Interns:
“Last semester I was learning about particle size distribution and how to calculate that,” said Emily Cannavo, a chemical engineering major at the University of Minnesota Duluth. “Now I’m here and I’m actually performing particle size distribution tests. Just being able to apply that is really cool. And seeing all the checks and balances that go into manufacturing a clinical batch that’s actually going into people is really interesting. You don’t think about that as a student, but there’s just so much that goes into it and it’s just so interesting to see.”
Sara Wixon, a microbiology major at the University of Minnesota, said one of the biggest things she learned was the difference between academic research and corporate research. “In school, my professors might just ‘throw me to the wolves’ and tell me to figure it out,” said Wixon. “That’s definitely not how things work here because the stakes are so much higher. We are working with a product that will be in humans so everything needs to be highly controlled and verified.”
“The gravity of the work done here,” added Miranda Swenson, a biology major at St. Olaf, “has really hit me. This product is in clinical trials, it’s given to patients, I’ve watched the shipments on a daily basis. One of the big things that I noticed was the high level of responsibility when documenting in a lab notebook or when writing a protocol. The word choice that goes into that has such profound consequences down the line.”
“My eyes have been opened,” Swenson concluded, “The real world doesn’t scare me as much as it did before this internship.”
Small Minnesota companies receive up to $2,500 to help pay a STEM intern. At least 350 wage matches are available through August 2019.