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Bridging Lab Bench to Biotech: Gundula Min-Oo’s Journey from the GCI to Industry Leadership

From roaming the halls of Bellini Building as a graduate navigating the complex interplay between pathogens and host immunity, to her current role as the Director of Immunology/Inflammation at Gilead Sciences, Inc., The Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Institute (GCI) alumna Gundula Min-Oo, PhD, reflects on her journey shaped by passion, mentorship, and a dedicated spirit for scientific exploration.

Gundula jumped into the world of research during her undergraduate studies at McGill University. While recalling her time as a PhD student in the laboratory of Dr. Philippe Gros until 2010, Gundula shares: “I knew of the great reputation of the lab and the department and was excited to join such a passionate group of scientists.” During her time at the GCI, her studies on infectious agents sparked her interest in the role of the immune system during pathogen-host interaction.

Like the majority of graduate students, Gundula contemplated several career paths, finally deciding to pursue a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California-San Francisco under the supervision of Prof. Lewis Lanier. She then made the jump into the world of industry: “I’m currently the Director of Immunology/Inflammation in Research & Development at Gilead and lead a team to discover and develop transformative medicines in chronic inflammatory diseases, with a focus on rheumatology,” shares Gundula. At her role, she oversees early- and late-stage research programs and supports their advances into clinical development.

Gundula’s time at the GCI played a pivotal role in shaping her outlook on this field and her career. She reflects that her graduate studies allowed her to develop a true passion for science and offered her the opportunity to experience crossing the intersection between academia and industry. Gundula shares that she “love[s] to think strategically about how we can achieve more for patients and better address true unmet need in the clinic with innovative science at the bench, and my current position allows me to take more of a birds-eye view of how to tackle this.”

The skills Gundula gained during her time at the GCI, including collaboration, forming critical scientific questions, and effective communication have been instrumental in her success as a leader in the biotech world. She emphasizes on the importance for graduate students to build a strong network and identify supportive mentors along the way: “The scientific community is smaller than you think, so these relationships will prove fruitful down the road.”

Beyond her set of pipettes, Gundula reminisces on the friendships she built during her time at the GCI, advising us that “the bond with your colleagues during those graduate/postdoc years is unlike any other, as you persevere through failed experiments and qualifying exams together and celebrate the highs and the lows at the weekly happy hours.” She also highlights the resilience that defines most scientific journeys: “This is a great time to take risks with your science, to fail and try again.”

Gundula’s story embodies the spirit of exploration and resilience in her pursuit of transformative science. Her journey serves as an incredible testament to the enduring impact of fruitful mentorship and commitment to advancing medical breakthroughs. Thank you, Gundula, for sharing your story with us. Connect with Gundula on LinkedIn.

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