For this month’s Member Spotlight, we spoke with Josh Lensmire who is a Senior Scientist with IMMUNARTES LLC Senior Scientist
Q: What does Immunartes do, and what is the area of focus?
A: Immunartes is an early-stage biotech company that is developing a vaccine candidate for Staphylococcus aureus. So far there has been no successful vaccine for S. aureus and treatment is becoming increasingly difficult due to emergence of antibiotic resistant strains like methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA). S. aureus has a unique physiology that makes generating a lasting immune response difficult, but we believe our vaccine candidate is primed to overcome these difficulties and provide relief against this formidable pathogen.
Q: What does your specific role entail?
A: My role at Immunartes is Senior Scientist, and this involves developing our pre-clinical assays which are helping us to understand the functionality of the vaccine. Ultimately, some of these assays could be used in clinical stages to track the effectiveness of our vaccine.
Q: How’d you come to find the company?
A: I found Immunartes through my job search with no prior knowledge of the company. My graduate work was studying S. aureus and I was excited to get back to the field.
Q: When did you first become interested in science?
A: My interest in microbiology was fostered when I was an undergraduate at UW-Madison. I had classes where the top experts in microbiology taught us about the abundance of bacteria and microbial life in the world. One professor taught microbial metabolism in a way that it was simple but elegant in how it had evolved. Microbial life can perform intricate chemical reactions which the products of make many other forms of life possible, and I am still fascinated to learn more of the positive and negative effects microbial life have on the world.
Q: How have you enjoyed your time at Portal?
A: So far, Portal has been a great place to be located. Portal is designed in a way such that it creates a very welcoming and collegial atmosphere. In ways, it reminds me of an academic department or an academic conference where you can have chance encounters with your coworkers and have a quick chat.
Q: Has it been beneficial to collaborate with others in the same boat as you?
A: Portal creates an environment where the barriers to interacting with other companies are lowered. The events produced by Portal facilitate meeting new companies in low-stake environments. This translates to an openness to strike up a conversation with other team’s experts and ask their opinion on a problem you could be having. Many ideas and solutions have arisen from these conversations.
Q: You’ve been a member for a bit now – how has it been seeing the biotech scene in Chicago evolve?
A: When I was looking to transition to industry a lot of my search involved Boston and Raleigh/Durham leads because they were canonically known as biotech hubs. Now, after being immersed in the Chicago biotech scene, I am aware of so much more happening here. The Chicago scene has an abundance of new ideas and now the tools and lab infrastructure are popping up to really make Chicago a place where biotech can see its true potential. As a midwest native, it’s very refreshing to see a midwest city become a biotech hub. Nowadays, whenever I discuss industry opportunities with graduate school friends, I make a strong case to explore Chicago.