Lab work and new business ideas – This is what Research Pitching Competition winner Sandra Jernström is up to

Sandra Jernström from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute won the 100 000 euro Competition Award in December 2018 at Slush. What is she up to now with all that money?

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Sandra Jernström is a cancer researcher who is determined to find the accurate drug for each cancer patient by analysing the composition of tumours on a molecular level. She thinks tumors may have similar molecular patterns, regardless of where they originate in the body. She thinks that the composition of the tumours affects the way the cancer behaves and by understanding this we could have a wider selection of treatments to choose from and pinpoint the most appropriate one for each patient. With this research idea Sandra took part in a research pitching competition in Slush and won the Skolar Award prize.

Sandra, you were awarded 100 000 euros to advance your research on cancer treatment. What has happened with your research since we last saw you pitching your idea on Slush stage?

I have now created a more detailed research plan and started to work on it. I also recruited a laboratory coordinator to help me with the optimization and implementation of the method first using conventional cell lines and then moving forward to patient derived cancers. I am now excited to go into the lab and get to do the actual work. My plan is to focus only on this research for the coming spring, to hopefully be able to publish the first results by the end of this year.

Have you created any interesting contacts after your pitch?

After winning the award the project received lots of visibility, which led to a few patients contacting me hoping to participate in the study. To be able to accept patients to the study, we first need to make sure the method even works, after that we need to have ethical approvals for moving to clinical samples. This will still take a few years. The patient requests made me realize the current lack of possibilities cancer patients have, so recently we have started to work on a start-up idea with a friend in the tech-industry covering this.

Pitching at Slush has also made your research known to the wider audience and media. Where have you been invited to speak about your work since December?

Several media have contacted me and I have spoken on the radio and television, for example SVT Rapport, Sisuradio and Radio Vega. I was also invited to give a seminar at the library in my hometown and as keynote speaker at the ÄLY-seminar held in Finland to speak about my idea. I also attended as panelist in a panel discussion about science communication here at Karolinska Institute. During the Skolar Bootcamp I learned to use Twitter as a professional tool and have now become excited about it. I tweet almost every day now.

In hindsight, what do you think was best about attending the competition?

I think the best part is the fact that you apply with a wild idea that has not yet been researched at all. You can throw your most daring ideas out there and see what happens! Also being surrounded by innovation at Slush gives a great boost in daring to aim high.