Dr. BreAnne MacKenzie
GGL member from 2009 to 2012
Lung Therapeutics, Inc., USA
Portrait from Jan 24, 2020
When did you become member of the GGL?
I started as a GGL member in 2009 and finished my PhD in 2014.
What section did you belong to during your time at GGL?
I belonged to section 3 - Heart, Lung and Blood Vessels.
Where do you work and what is your position?
I am currently working full time as a Senior Scientist at Lung Therapeutics, Inc.
How did you get your current position and how was the application process?
After finishing a post-doc in Giessen in 2015, I completed an 18-month postdoc in respiratory immunology and exercise physiology in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In May of 2017, I returned to the USA and hoped to start earning an income and saving some money. Since I was broke, I signed up for workaway.info which is an international program that allows you to work in exchange for free food and shelter. For over 2 months, I worked on a farm in Washington state cooking meals for a large family, taking care of about 40 chickens and 30 horses and a terminally ill cancer patient. Every night after work I applied for research positions in industry. At that point I had about 15 publications, 5 of them first-authored publications, but it didn’t seem to matter. I applied to over 100 jobs and received about 4 call backs. None of the 4 call backs resulted in more than a phone interview. Then one day I stumbled upon the Lung Therapeutics website. It was a start-up based in Austin, Texas and serendipitously, my co-mentor from Giessen was on their board of medical directors. I sent in my CV with a cover letter and afterwards reached out to my co-mentor, letting him know I had found a possible job lead. He offered to write me a letter of recommendation, which I believed helped me land the job.
What do you do on a typical working day?
During the first six months, I worked in rural Tyler, Texas in a University laboratory standardizing in vivo experiments. The work was published in a Science paper in December 2019. Once these efficacious results were obtained, I identified a life science incubator which offered shared lab equipment and bench space in Austin, TX, and so I relocated. While continuing to do some bench work, my role at Lung Therapeutics transitioned over time to management of vendors and sponsored research agreements, making slides for presentations to the board and potential investors, contributing to drug pipeline strategy and development, presenting the work at international conferences, representing the company on a biomarker consortium, applying for SBIR/STTR and other grants, managing the research budget and supporting clinical operations as needed. Every day is different, and I mostly work from home. It’s not a typical industry job because I report directly to the CEO and work among a small number of employees and consultants that comprise a highly matrixed environment.
What was your field of research during your doctoral studies? Are you still working on that?
Yes, I have been researching Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) since I started in Giessen in 2009. My 2017 career goal was to work on a translational project (taking a molecule from bench to bedside) for IPF. Since then, I have participated in the development of a novel anti-fibrotic therapeutic called LTI-03; from the optimization of the formulation for dry powder inhalation, through in vitro and in vivo efficacy animal studies, toxicology, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approval, and just this month, January 2020, we began our first in human Phase 1 study.
When you think back to the different elements of the GGL program, what part was specifically important for you?
For me, participating in the GGL events helped me to learn about areas of research outside of my specialty. It also provided leadership opportunities such as becoming a course instructor. I also formed some lasting friendships that I maintain to this day.
What piece of advice would you like to give to our new members?
New members should take advantage of what the GGL and Giessen has to offer. Make friends with colleagues from other sections and explore all of the leadership opportunities. Try to learn German. Remember that this is a training phase, so don’t be afraid of trying and failing or testing new ideas. Also don’t be afraid to solicit feedback from your peers and GGL instructors regarding your ideas, projects or soft skills. Through these relationships you may build lifelong friendships, mentors or business partners. Regardless of whether you’re aiming for an industry or academic career, communication is key in science, so I’d encourage students to use the GGL to develop their communication skills.
Would you recommend the GGL for young students, who consider obtaining a doctorate in life sciences?
Yes, because you have the chance to learn about diverse areas of research and plenty of opportunities to interact one on one with others. The more approaches you learn for testing hypotheses, and the more you can train your ability to think critically about science, the better your own science and career will become.