Prestigious biotech research program opens doors for Brock student

Fourth-year Brock Biochemistry student Luka Lamaj was among an elite group of aspiring biotechnology leaders selected to participate in a prestigious undergraduate student research program this past summer.

Lamaj spent three months in Cambridge, Mass., immersed in DojoHouse, a program run by Nucleate, a biotechnology non-profit that hosts eight ambitious undergraduate students from across North America each year.

Of the eight students accepted into DojoHouse, Lamaj was the only student from Canada with other participants coming from U.S.-based Ivy league schools such as Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

“I think they liked my entrepreneurial mindset, and that I focus not only on biotech research, but also on future commercialization,” said Lamaj.

He learned about the opportunity after his company Docere Health won a Microsoft pitch competition as the best startup in North America. Lamaj created the platform two years ago to ease communications between doctors and patients. His company has since expanded, thanks in part to the support he receives from Brock LINC, and the platform now also uses artificial intelligence to facilitate administrative work in medical clinics, such as intake forms and referral and prescription processes.

While at DojoHouse, Lamaj and others focused their research on one of three topics: accelerating a cure for cancer, preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s, or using computation models to predict human chromatin organization. Lamaj chose the first option and spent several hours a day doing a literature review of genomic medicine.

To complement his research, Lamaj was paired with two mentors, a professor of Genetics and Oncology from Cambridge University and a Professor of Oncology from Harvard Medical School, with whom he connected once a week.

He and other students also toured a million-dollar company’s offices, biotech startups and academic research labs that were once home to Nobel Prize winners.

Each weekend a biotech leader, scientist or investor visited the house to share knowledge with the students, which Lamaj said was one of the most valuable aspects of participating in the program.

While many of the students interned with academic research labs or biotech startups as part of the DojoHouse program, Lamaj dedicated time to networking with industry leaders and developing his business.

“It’s unbelievable how many doors the Nucleate name can open,” he said. “I found investors for my company while chatting with people about Nucleate initiatives.”

At the completion of the program, students presented their research findings to a group of biotechnology leaders, venture capitalists, academics, scientists, hospital administrators and industry professionals at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Although DojoHouse ended in August, Lamaj and other students are continuing the spirit of research and innovation gained through the program by collaborating with their mentor from Cambridge University and a scientist from MIT to co-author a book on genomic medicine. A chapter of the book will be dedicated specifically to oncology and is expected to contain much of Lamaj’s research findings.

The student entrepreneur will also be applying his research to continue growing Docere Health. He hopes to train the platform’s artificial intelligence to become a clinical decision support tool for oncologists and cancer researchers as well as neurologists and psychiatrists.

Lamaj is grateful for his summer research experience and has chosen to continue his connection with Nucleate by taking on a 12-month contract as Director of Nucleate Dojo. For the next year, he will be balancing expanding Nucleate’s undergraduate programming with co-authoring the book, developing his business and completing his fourth year of studies in Biochemistry at Brock.

“It will be a whirlwind of activity, but as an immigrant, I’ve learned that the path to success demands unwavering grit and determination,” said Lamaj. “I don’t merely aspire to survive; I aim to thrive, and in doing so, I hope to inspire others to chase their dreams with the same fiery passion that fuels my every step.”

Read more stories in: Mathematics and Science, News
Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,