Nina Dudnick, Seeding Labs, empowering talented scientists in developing countries to conduct life-changing research




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Video title: Nina Dudnick, Seeding Labs, empowering talented scientists in developing countries to conduct life-changing research
Released on: November 07, 2012. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review filmed at BioPharm America in Boston, Fintan Walton talks to Nina Dudnick, Founder of Seeding Labs
Mission of charitable organization - Seeding Labs
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioPharm America, in Boston in 2012. On this show I have Nina Dudnik, who is the CEO and Founder of Seeding Labs, welcome.
Nina Dudnik:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
Seeding Labs is an organization, it's a charitable organization which you've founded and lead, what is the purpose of Seeding Labs?
Nina Dudnik:
So the mission of Seeding Labs is to empower talented scientists across the world, across the developing world, to be able to do life changing research and also to train their students to be the next generation of scientists and researchers.
Fintan Walton:
And you are helping them to do that through what means?
Nina Dudnik:
Through basically three mechanisms, by providing them with laboratory equipment which they otherwise might not be able to afford, by providing them with advance training, and by connecting them to their colleagues across the scientific community all over the world.
Impelling force and grassroots effort behind initiation of Seeding Labs
Fintan Walton:
So when you, you've had the vision to set this organization up what was the, what's the driving force behind it?
Nina Dudnik:
The impetus behind founding Seeding Labs was actually my own experiences being a scientist in a number of different countries around the world, in particular in the Ivory Coast in West Africa, where we were trying to develop new varieties of rice which is incredibly important staple crop and we were working in the only multi functioning molecular biology lab in the country, we had the only PCR machine in at least the entire country if not multiple neighboring countries and then I came back to the US and was really stunned by the disparity in the resources, but also this disconnection between great scientists trying to do similar work in other parts of the world who didn't know each other, who really could have been great colleagues.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so then obviously to set up something like that you have to do several things, one is to obviously raise money?
Nina Dudnik:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
But part of your activity is as you say is finding laboratory equipment and then donating it, then there are the other elements too to what you actually do as well which include training and so forth, so how do that work? How did you, how do you get this whole thing off the ground?
Nina Dudnik:
Actually initially it got off the ground purely as volunteer grassroots organization. A lot of, well really every scientific institution whether it's private or a university, is constantly upgrading its equipment and so this is actually a very big issue for in some corporations in the scientific sector, what to do with perfectly good and usable equipment, ago they paid a lot of money for storage, for disposal, there are lot of issues in what to do with this equipment, and so what we are really doing is solving two problems at once. And so it's been really wonderful to work with institutions across the public and private sectors to be able to help them to solve this environmental problem and this waste and storage problem and use that at the same time to affordably equip labs and the universities all over the world.
Equipment transfer programme and costs of transportation
Fintan Walton:
Right, so obviously you raise the money, you find the equipment, the equipment is coming to you, then you have to then obviously distribute that equipment, so how does that work, so you obviously you got to and you have to work at both ends of the process?
Nina Dudnik:
Yes and this is really a partnership, and its partnership long-term on both of those ends. So on the end of finding the equipment we work quarter after quarter with companies across the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors in particular and then on the other side we have a very intensive vetting process, so a written application process and a due diligence process. We are looking for universities in the developing world that have real potential, that have a track record of doing good science with what they've had available and really solid plans for what they are going to do with the equipment that we can make available to them. And then we work with everyone from the technicians in the laboratories and the students all the way up to the President of the university, we help them with customs and things all of those things to get the equipment to them and then over the long-term over years afterwards we continue to work with them to make sure that equipment is working, that they are using it to connect them to people who can help them troubleshoot their experiments and their equipment and to make sure that they are continuously upgrading what they are doing in their labs.
Fintan Walton:
Excellent, and so I suppose the other thing is the cost of moving , storing and moving the equipments and so forth, is that a cost that you have to bear or can you convince some of the courier companies, transport companies to give you a good rate or whatever?
Nina Dudnik:
We would love to work with some of the major transport companies. We are working with Aeromax, which is based in the Middle East and they do a lot of work in East Africa as well, and the universities that receive the equipment actually do pay a cost share to cover some of those logistics costs, it's certainly a significant discount and it allows them to really equip whole departments at a time, whole teaching labs at a time, and we also rely on the corporate and individual philanthropists to help us to free those costs.
Success stories of Seeding Labs
Fintan Walton:
Right. So Nina, could you give us some examples of laboratories that have been, or universities that have been equipped through your charitable organization, and from those examples which ones did you feel particularly proud about?
Nina Dudnik:
Well I feel proud about all of them, we have equipped labs in 17 countries so far, about $1.3 million worth of equipment and the fare of market value would have cost quite a bit more new. One of the labs we've been working with, universities that we've been working with for a long time now is Kenyatta University, in Nairobi, Kenya. We provided them with enough equipment to equip all of the chemistry departments, some of the nursing department and the brand new pharmacy department. So I got to meet the first class of pharmacy students there and each one of them had a personal story about why he or she was going into this field, about relatives who had been sick, people that they knew couldn't have access to medicines, couldn't afford medicine, and so the folks doing science at this university are really doing at a very personal and local reasons. I met Steven Runo for example who, he grew up really fascinated by taking things apart, he took apart watches, he dissected insects at home, and then he discovered plant biology. I met him three or four-years ago when he was finishing up his PhD, he is studying actually a parasitic weed that attacks corn crops, and corn is an incredibly important stable crop in Kenya, and he said to me everything I do is for small farmers in my country and I thought that was an incredible motivation to be able to go into the lab everyday and do your research. And actually Steve was part of a group of scientists that was here in Boston, all summer this year, working in labs locally, getting trained with Seeding Labs on how to propel their science forward and also how to become real leaders in their communities, and in their campuses for years to come.
Partnering with charitable organizations
Fintan Walton:
Right, now the other component of this of course is working with other organizations and how linked are you to other charitable organizations who are looking in the same area, how important is that?
Nina Dudnik:
We couldn't do what we do without partnerships, it's a really important part of how we work, it all of our efforts together is what makes the impact possible. We work with scientific societies in the US and in Europe, things like The Royal Society Of Chemistry, The American Chemical Society, The American Society For Cell Biology. We work with a lot of organizations that are working in the countries where we work, for example Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa is a great example, and we work with a lot of corporate partners, a lot of university partners both here and abroad.
Fintan Walton:
So Nina you were voted by L Magazine as one of the inspirational women in 2011, congratulations on that, what drives you?
Nina Dudnik:
Well this is a very personal issue for me, I believe in this incredibly strongly, and I think actually this is an issue that really touches a lot of people very personally and that is what makes it possible to build this kind of a movement, everybody has that experience of growing up having an ambition, wanting to be able to have the opportunity to put that ambition into action and that's fundamentally what we are doing is bringing resources to bear, so that smart motivated people no matter where it is that they are born in the world also have access to that opportunity.
Different ways for pharma and biotech companies to help Seeding Labs
Fintan Walton:
Our audience is made up of individuals from both biotech and pharmaceutical companies and a lot of those companies obviously are changing their equipment on a regular basis, what can these companies actually do to help you?
Nina Dudnik:
So there is three different ways they can get involved, its financial support for the projects and the scientists that we work with around the world at many different levels, equipment, we can help them manage and deploy assets after they are used, we know about nine months in advance the equipment that our scientists around the world actually need so we can help them match that up. And finally we have a corporate volunteerism program, we love individuals as well as groups that can get involved both virtually online and connecting with scientists around the world, but also locally in terms of putting shipments together for scientists.
Logistics of collecting the equipment
Fintan Walton:
Right, now obviously linked to all of that is you are creating on a regular basis a wish list and you must have a database which is filling up with assets that you are now collecting on behalf of those individual organizations, or in individual labs, so how does that work? How does that, the logistics of collecting the equipment and then making sure it gets to the right organizations?
Nina Dudnik:
Sure, so as part of our application process we work with the scientists at the universities overseas to determine what the right equipment is that they need for the projects and for the classes that they are teaching.
Fintan Walton:
So it's like a wish list?
Nina Dudnik:
Yes, it's essentially a wish list you could find it on our website (http://seedinglabs.org/ ) and also find the list of the equipment we need most urgently for the next three months, both on our website, and then we work again with the scientists who are donating the equipment, with the scientists who receive the equipment and we work in the middle to make sure that the right piece gets matched to the right needs. And one important aspect of working with biotech and pharmaceutical companies is that we manage this process for them, we identify universities overseas, we remove any issues of liability for them on the donated equipment and we do all of the matching, so they don't have to worry about any of that and it is a much more environmentally safe use of their equipment.
Fintan Walton:
So this list extends out over a year, is that right?
Nina Dudnik:
Yes, we select scientists annually through an application process, so we know a year's worth of universities needs at a time.
Fintan Walton:
Nina, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Nina Dudnik:
My pleasure.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Nina Dudnik
Founder and CEO
At the time of this PTV interview Nina Dudnik serves as Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Seeding Labs. Nina has always tried to combine science and global development. She began the effort to build Seeding Labs as a graduate student in 2003. She was a finalist in the 2006 MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition and was awarded an Echoing Green fellowship in 2007 to formally launch and expand Seeding Labs. Nina is a 2010 TEDGlobal Fellow and received the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network Young Professional award for 2010. Nina worked for the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research in Italy where she provided advice on the integration of molecular genetics techniques into conservation and plant breeding activities. She was a Fulbright scholar in 2000 at the Africa Rice Center in Cote d'Ivoire studying rice introgression using molecular markers. Nina obtained her PhD in molecular biology from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and a BSc in biochemistry from Brown University.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialization.
Seeding Labs
Seeding Labs was founded to give talented researchers a third way. Seeding Labs's goal, since the beginning, has been to help fellow scientists follow their dreams without sacrificing their careers. They collect the surplus and used lab equipment universities, hospitals and private research companies in the United States would otherwise store on a top shelf or send to the trash. They use this surplus to help equip scientific and clinical labs in the developing world for a fraction of what the equipment would cost at retail and so far have delivered equipment worth more than $200,000 to scientists and clinicians in ten countries on a budget of under $10,000. The donors are happy because they get practical use out of equipment which would otherwise be gathering dust on a shelf or taking up space in a landfill. The recipients are happy because they're finally able to pursue the research priorities that are important to them and contribute to the educational and economic development of their home countries. Seeding Labs have sent equipment to HIV/AIDS clinics in Haiti and helped to build a new medical school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, part of a university dedicated to setting new standards for transparency and public service in African education. A two-year grant from Echoing Green has launched Seeding Labs's expansion in the Boston area and around the country.