Breaking from tradition. Ignite the path to a cure.

An Interview with Research Associate Maria Ivanova

Mar 24, 2021 4:25:36 PM / by David Deems


Why is there a need for Cellaria and its services in today's world?

In short, Cellaria exists to fight diseases and improve patients’ lives. Currently, among the unmet medical needs list, oncologic diseases make up about 50% of that list. Also, cell culture had been around for dozens of years. I think many companies keep using an established layout in their cancer lines which might have worked in the past but is becoming outdated as cancer evolves. Then we have Cellaria, the company which seeks answers to correctly asked questions.  

Why is Cellaria unique?

As cliche as it sounds, Cellaria looks at the future, particularly at the future of patients’ tumors. Our leaders did not choose a task to just produce hard-to-grow cancer cell models --- the result of our cell models is patient-specific, authenticated, and stable to work with. I see that scientists at Cellaria can act as one, meaning with our work process and validation we can rely on each team member. The experiments that each of the scientists do are very transparent to others and among the mandatory quality control, the team sets internal, if I may say “double control”.  Your experiment can be seen with a fresh set of eyes and I believe, this work etiquette transcribes to better results.

What particularly excites you about what Cellaria does?

As I mentioned, cell culture is not a new technique and has gained plenty of success. However, pancreatic cancer and metastatic non-small cell lung cancer make up the top 10 unmet medical needs, particularly because those cell lines are difficult to grow. And here I am in a very small 10-people company growing pancreatic cell lines and literally handling the future of cancer research!

Why did you choose to work for Cellaria over other companies in the cell culture space?

No matter the industry, changing a workplace is stressful especially because you most likely will not know the people with whom you will be working until after you accept a position. In a company as small as Cellaria, the contribution of each team member is enormous. Each team member contributed their time to meet me before any decision was made. Not only did I get a glance at the personalities of people I would be spending 40 hours each week, but they also shared their experiments and long-term projects. All of the stars aligned for me: the work environment is very healthy, and scientists are working on diverse projects. As a fresh graduate, I am able to be practically immersed in cell culture, oncology, stem cells, proteomics, and more.

Tell us a bit about your background and your journey to your current role:

Honestly, as a kid I thought I would be conducting interviews and publishing articles because I am a very communicative person and enjoy reading very much. However, in high school, I slowly started discovering the beautiful field of science through reading. I quickly realized that although I might still write as a hobby, I would have to start with basic chemistry and biology if I wanted to understand how our body and every living creature operates. I started my educational journey with Bunker Hill Community College, where I walked in the lab not knowing basic glassware terminology, but quickly got a job as a lab technician and even was able to help out other students. After BHCC  graduation, I worked in a pharmacy where I gained an understanding of the most common medications, and therefore, the diseases that people in the US struggle with daily. I continued to work in a pharmacy while getting a Bachelor’s in Biotechnology at Northeastern University. By the end of my studies, I had strong basic lab techniques combined with working pharmacology knowledge. I found Cellaria at exactly the right moment of my career, and I believe working here will only accelerate my interest in uncovering biological mechanisms and make me a fruitful scientist.

What is your responsibility at Cellaria?

I conduct different cell culture activities and perform analytical assays. My spouse does not have a scientific education, so I say, “imagine a family house with kids, and as they grow, they need a nourishing environment. By a certain age, they move out and create their own families: so I do the same with cells”. I create beneficial conditions for cells to grow and move “offspring” to their next housing, only it happens very quickly! I am still in a learning phase. I see my team working on different complex projects for a long time, but even at this moment, I am conducting a new experiment. That is the beauty and the challenge of a research laboratory. The possibilities are endless, but the analysis must be very definite. My goal, for now, is to become a strong link in the chain named “Cellaria”. 

Topics: Insider, Interview

David Deems

Written by David Deems