Kelly Van Winkle – Biotech Researcher

August 17, 2007 Terkel

Interview: How To Become a Biotech Research Associate (non-PHD)

What exactly do you guys do here? What’s the name of the company?

It’s called Stratatech Corporation. We make skin. We grow skin. Well, yeah. We basically make skin in a lab and we’re doing a human clinical trial right now on burn victims.

Is it all going through trials right now?

Yeah. We’re just a private company in the beginning phases of a clinical trial.

So is the revenue grants from the university?

Government grants and private investors.

So how many employees do you have here?

I think twenty-five to thirty.

And you’ve been here for four years. How many employees was it four years ago?

Oh gosh. I think like, fifteen or sixteen.

What exactly do you do here?

That’s a good question. I do a lot of stuff. I work on a research grant. We have our main line product that we call Stratograph. It’s skin that we make here in the lab. We also have several research grants where we can actually modify the skin and tailor it to different patient types.

That’s pretty cool.

So I work with research and development. Basically, to make the skin that goes to the hospitals, we need to work in a clean room environment. Which basically means extremely sterile conditions. We wear tie vech bunny suits head to toe. The whole nine yards.

So I do that. I’m usually over there once a week. We usually contract out a different facility to do that. I do a little bit of quality control stuff as well.

Why do you love it? Why have you been here for four years?

Well, I just think it’s really exciting. The possibility of helping people is really what keeps everyone going. Our president is really inspirational. She’s just an awesome lady. I love the people who work here. Everyone is really supportive.

I think for me honestly, that’s the best part of it.

Do you like being in the lab?

Yeah. I love the science. It’s really stimulating. Once a month we have meeting where everyone gives each other updates on what’s going on in the lab and what’s going on with the different research projects.

Is this something that you want to do forever? What do you eventually hope to end up at in your career?

Yeah. I don’t really know. That’s a good question. I mean, I kind just landed myself here and I’m really loving it and seeing where it takes me, I guess. But I think I really want to see where the company goes and try to help it get to where it’s going.

How far off do you think they are from having something approved that’s on the market?

It’s really hard to say. It’s going to be awhile.

Years and years?

Years. I’d say.

Do people ever get burnt out? Do they lose faith in the possibility of it being approved?

You know, I think it could happen like that. But I always feel motivated. I never have gotten to the point where…there’s definitely been times where it’s been a little discouraging, but even though sometimes it’s slow, I feel like we’re always moving forward and always making some progress.

I think we’ve gotten a really good response from hospitals and the people who would actually be purchasing the product. We just have been getting really good responses from people and we’ve received a lot of grant money. I know a lot of people are real excited about our research too.

Are there a lot of companies who are doing something similar? In a sense, developing the same product?

Not a lot. There’s at least one other product that’s similar to ours and it’s called Appligraph. They’ve been making that product for a long time. It’s already approved. There are differences between ours and there’s. It’s hard for me to say what the differences are.

But there’s no one that you’re racing against for approval right now though?

Not really. For the actual skin product, the research is a little more competitive. A lot of people are working with the different proteins and stuff we research. It’s kind of exciting.

You said you graduated in 2003? So this is your first job out of school?


That’s pretty cool. What would be the one piece of advice if you could go back and say to yourself at graduation?

Wow. I think I would just say…yeah. I don’t know. I have to think about it. I guess I’m really glad that I stuck it out. Sometimes your first job out of college, you’re not always going to like everything about it. You kind of just have to start somewhere. But I’m just really glad that I stuck with it and it just turned into a really great job.