In Their Element Science Podcast: Biomedical & Biotechnology

A good time to cell

Genetics // Regenerative medicine // Bio-fuels // Using biology to innovate // Studying biotechnology

Reuben Jacob

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“The reason why I came into research and have now transitioned into industry was all because I want to be somebody that makes a difference for the patient.”Reuben Jacob - Innovation Manager, Bellberry

 

Reuben Jacob

A good time to cell: Reuben Jacob

About our guest

Reuben’s fascination with biology and the human body was sparked when he broke his arm at school and saw the doctors at work on his injury. 

After narrowly missing out on entry into medical school, his uncle suggested he travel from his home country of India to Australia, where our biotechnology industry was booming.  

A great piece of advice, as he now works at the intersection of science and business as an Innovation Manager for the biotechnology company, Bellberry. His work involves taking research from the lab to the market.  

As someone who loves solving puzzles, Reuben chose to major in genetics within his Bachelor of Science (Biotechnology), and make genetics the focus of his honours year. 

Join us for his conversation with Sarah Davidson as he discusses how biotechnology harnesses nature’s toolbox for the good of mankind, his plight to beat ovarian cancer after losing his grandmother to the disease, and the thrill of constant discovery.

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  • Bonus content

    • Access world-class training from leading researchers and some of the most advanced technology in the Southern Hemisphere – see what you can study in the fields of biotechnology and biomedical science.
    • Read about the latest discoveries from scientists in the Research Centre for Infectious Diseases; or follow the centre on Twitter.
    • Learn more about Belberry - where Reuben works - as they promote and improve the welfare of human research participants and the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of research.
  • Show notes

    Sarah:
    Welcome to In Their Element, a fascinating new podcast series offering a revealing glimpse into the unfolding careers of passionate science grads from South Australia's number one uni for science, the University of Adelaide.

    Sarah:
    In this episode, we're chatting with our first international student graduate from India, Reuben Jacob who's now absolutely smashing it out there in the workforce as an innovation manager. Reuben studied a Bachelor of Science Biotechnology, majoring in genetics, and completed his honours in 2009. He is now innovation manager at Bellberry, a national private, not-for-profit organization, providing streamlined, scientific, and ethical review of human research projects. That already sounds incredibly intriguing. And I'm delighted to hand over to Reuben to explain a bit more about what that all means.

    Sarah:
    Reuben, welcome to the show.

    Reuben:
    Thank you, Sarah. How are you?

    Sarah:
    I'm really well. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us. So before we get into things, we ask every guest on the show a little icebreaker. What is the coolest scientific fact or discovery that you know of that you think needs a little bit of a moment of appreciation or its 15 minutes of fame?

    Reuben:
    Fact doesn't jump to my head just now, but I'm constantly amazed at how complex and challenging and fun as a result of that science is. So I guess that's my fact.

    Sarah:
    I think that's a great answer. And I think there are a lot of people out there who don't necessarily put science and fun in the same basket, but I think it's so important to show that it can actually be such a fun and exciting area. So I'm very glad that we have you on the show to explain why.

    Reuben:
    Thank you.

    Sarah:
    Before we go any further, I feel like we need to explain to the listeners what actually is biotechnology. My head has given me kind of visions of Iron Man and like-

    Reuben:
    That's cool. In its simplest form, I guess biotechnology is basically technology and biology. So harnessing nature's natural toolbox to benefit mankind really.

    Sarah:
    That's so cool. So it kind of is Iron Man.

    Reuben:
    Extrapolation, but yeah.

    Sarah:
    Yeah. I mean, I also read that it's actually quite a new industry. Like 90% of biotechnology jobs were created just in the past 10 years. So it makes sense that a lot of us are quite new to the area and haven't necessarily heard about it in depth.

    Reuben:
    The industry itself is rapidly growing because there's lots and lots of layers that come out of it and a lot of, lot of specializations that have come as a result. So I'm not sure of the fact that you mentioned about 50%?

    Sarah:
    90%.

    Reuben:
    90% of the jobs were created in the last 10 years, but in saying that, I wouldn't be surprised if that was actually the fact.

    Sarah:
    Yeah. What are some are the real world examples of biotechnology that we might recognize and not necessarily know that that's the work of biotechnology? I've learned recently that it doesn't actually have to necessarily be medical, that there is regenerative medicine and STEM cell research, but it doesn't have to be. There can be bio-based sustainability in production of fuel. There are so many real world applications. So what are some examples for us?

    Reuben:
    One of the sectors that's got less spotlight on them is mostly the waste treatment sector.

    Sarah:
    Wow.

    Reuben:
    Even in Adelaide I know of a company that uses microorganisms to actually dispose waste or chew through waste and give useful end products at the end of it. That's a biotechnology in action. And you obviously know about all the humans, the medical related stuff.

    Sarah:
    Yeah. That's a great one because I do think that we tend to assume that it's mostly in the medical field, but that is so cool to know. Waste management is such a big issue in society, particularly as the population grows and to know that there are ways to actually degenerate waste from a biological level, that's fascinating. Wow.

    Sarah:
    So you did end up going into more the medical field with genetics as a specialization. What drew you into that field? And taking yourself back to what you were like in high school, I don't think I knew that that job existed or that that field even existed back then. So what were you thinking when you first started the degree and how did you get interested in that? Did you always want to go into that field?

    Reuben:
    No, actually. I'll give a bit of a story maybe. So when I was in year eight, I broke my arm and I thought that's the end of my arm. I was really panicking until my parents took me to the hospital. To cut a long story short there, they fixed my hand out and I was good. So that really opened up a fascination towards the bio side of things, the human side of things. Even up until then I used to love my physics and my chem and my maths and my biology, but that really put things in perspective, I guess.

    Reuben:
    But then after I finished year 12, I've just missed on medicine and this is... I'm originally from India. So this is back in India. And for some reason, based on my understanding at that point in life, I realized I wanted to do biotechnology. My uncle, who is a doctor, he actually said, "Go to Australia because I've been there many times and it's a good country that adopt biotechnology." And I took his word.

    Sarah:
    Wow. So it was all just his recommendation.

    Reuben:
    Pretty much. I did do a little bit of research about universities in Australia and how good the University of Adelaide is especially in the sciences area and started that degree and yeah, I couldn't have been more happier.

    Sarah:
    Wow. Oh, that's so cool. I mean, it's even more special being an international student, knowing that the University of Adelaide's reputation in the science industry spread that far to be able to attract you here. I think it seems, on its face, quite a specific area of science, biotech and then majoring in genetics with the University of Adelaide. So run us through the actual degree and when you started to know that you could specialize. Do you start out really general at the start of the three years and then move into biotech sort of second year? Or is it through different electives? How do you know that that's what you want to do?

    Reuben:
    Sure. So biotechnology is a named degree, which means it's got its own core courses plus a lot of other things more broadly that you could choose from what the science faculty offers. The good thing about the biotechnology degree was that it not only taught you about science and how to pursue science, but also gave us an understanding of how the industry works.

    Reuben:
    We had a few lecturers come in and chat about the industry about what they did. We had lectures from intellectual property specialists, from economists, from finance people. So it sort of gave a much well rounded background. What I guess pushed me towards genetics was that the problem solving nature of that area, rote learning is not one of my fortes and-

    Sarah:
    We're opposite then. I'm brighter than you.

    Reuben:
    Oh, my brain unfortunately doesn't like that way, and I have a huge appreciation for people who can remember stuff. I liked solving problems. I like solving puzzles. I like solving problems. Genetics was basically a problem solving exercise, so I loved it. And I had some fantastic lecturers at the Adelaide Uni who are experts in their areas who really have nurtured my interests really.

    Sarah:
    Wow. So to just bring it back down to a really technical level, within the Bachelor of Science Biotechnology, you could specialize in genetics, but you could have also gone a number of other routes as well, even within that. So there's microbiology, immunology, molecular biotechnology. What are the differences between those that you could have specialized in? To the lay person like me who's like, "They sound very similar."

    Reuben:
    Sure. Look, all of them have a level of some... Molecular biology, I guess, is sort of the underlying techniques, technology that we use to either pursue genetics, biochemistry, immunology, whatever, but genetics is in itself looks at the DNA, the RNA that comes out of it and the gazillion layers of things that interact between those two layers. So that's sort of genetics and I, for some reason was drawn towards that. In addition to the problem solving nature of that discipline, something about the DNA and what it can do and how it all means in life actually appeal to me.

    Sarah:
    That's so cool. I mean, my understanding of DNA is very, very surface level, but I can imagine diving deeper into it would just be so fascinating because it applies to everything we do. It's in everything.

    Reuben:
    Indeed.

    Sarah:
    I think, again, it's hard to translate the technical study of genetics into real world applications for a lot of us who aren't familiar with that. So tell us about some of the things that you've been able to do. Let's leave the workforce for now, but just in research, the things you've been able to look at. I read that you've been doing projects looking at cell types involved in ovulation and investigation of what are called piRNA's, new word for me, in ovarian cancer. Tell us more about the different things that you have been able to explore in your studies.

    Reuben:
    Coming back to something that I mentioned earlier, the constant discovery of different layers of complexity and different layers of interaction that goes on in a cell, that goes on in the body is just fascinating. And the piRNA is a-

    Sarah:
    Oh, that's how you say it.

    Reuben:
    That's how you say it.

    Sarah:
    Thank you.

    Reuben:
    The piRNA is a relatively newly discovered class of non-regulating, sorry, non-coding RNAs that play such a big role in the cell and they... I can't really single out moments, but there's been a lot of moments when you go, "Actually, that is so cool. I was able to contribute and solve that problem that people all over the world didn't know, whereas I've solved it." So, that sort of gives you that satisfaction behind whatever you choose to do in a research project.

    Sarah:
    You can see so much social impact from those findings then carrying out into actual people's lives, who are affected by things like ovarian cancer. I also saw a paper on that same piRNA that looks at genes in intellectual disability and other conditions like that that do have big social impacts. So it sounds like the University of Adelaide really helps prepare you for not just the technical lab-based studies of science, but also that pathway into industry and the practical side of things. So what are some of the people you have access to during your degree and ways that you're exposed to that multidimensional approach to science early on in your studies?

    Reuben:
    Sure. When you're an undergraduate student, for example, you don't really know too much about the big wide world, right?

    Sarah:
    Yeah.

    Reuben:
    So you just reach out and go ask your lecturer or your practical demonstrator about whatever that they're working on. And bear in mind, these are world experts on their own areas. To give an example, I went and worked with one of them on a project. And then eventually when I developed an interest in the industry, not only did that person train me in cutting-edge research in oncology or cancer. But then when I had an interest in the industry, he had connections with the industry, too. And he put me in touch with the people he knew and that helped open my mind up to how the industry works, too.

    Sarah:
    I think that is so important to always have access to networks that aren't just strictly academic and then strictly practical industry. That crossover is what can really help guide students into where they actually want to go with it rather than just, this is the classroom. This is the workplace.

    Reuben:
    That's right.

    Sarah:
    What are some areas that you're most passionate about using your scientific background for?

    Reuben:
    The reason why I came into research and now transitioned into industry was all because I wanted to be somebody that makes a difference for the patient. To give you an example, I lost my grandmother to ovarian cancer, and that was one of the drivers behind me taking a project in that area. I know that how bad a disease that is and anything that I could contribute to making life better for anyone who's going through that is a privilege really.

    Sarah:
    Yeah. That does connect it right back to how we do tend to think of scientists, particularly working in the area of genetics as just like in labs with beakers and measuring out little things and testing cells at this microscopic level, but really it's the impact on the people that you live around and their experience and quality of life that really matters.

    Sarah:
    So on that note, taking it back to the actual degree and the studies, how much of what you did was theory versus practical? Did you have the chance to start this work on the real world examples of your skills early in the degree, or what was the balance of the connection with industry? I know the University of Adelaide has really great relationships with industry that does help foster this wonderful pathway for students. What was your experience of that?

    Reuben:
    Going back to my undergrad, so my first year was more getting all the basic concepts built. Second year, we then started to look into genetics and genetic concepts and things like that. In third year, we actually did research projects, which is essentially helping PhD students in various labs with their own projects. So we sort of had a taste for what that actually is. I was very fortunate when I was in my undergrad to actually have a lab placement in the end of first year in a wine microbiology lab and-

    Sarah:
    That's so early. Amazing.

    Reuben:
    Yeah. That was a great experience. At that point I knew research was the thing for me because I absolutely loved it. And in third year, again, I was working casually with a lab in genetics and absolutely loved it and went on to the honours in the same lab because I absolutely loved the work that they did.

    Sarah:
    That's so cool. I think that is one of the things that really is so fascinating when you look at other people's stories, is those aha moments that really trigger decision making that from the outside, you think you always knew that, but I don't think necessarily that's how it unravels. Did you say the microbiology lab was in wine?

    Reuben:
    Correct.

    Sarah:
    Wow. So totally outside the human context at the beginning.

    Reuben:
    Absolutely.

    Sarah:
    Wow.

    Reuben:
    One of my lecturers had a position open and he said, "Look, if anyone's interested, let me know." I did. And he said, "Sure, come on in." And yeah.

    Sarah:
    What were you actually looking at?

    Reuben:
    Oh, I was looking at some strains of wine yeast and what they did to some characteristic of wine that I can't remember now, but yeah.

    Sarah:
    Oh, my gosh. Obviously in South Australia, you're right in the epicentre of wine.

    Reuben:
    Absolutely.

    Sarah:
    So, improving the quality and all that kind of thing is so important, and for all of us outside, in other states that enjoy Adelaide wine. So once you did get your placement going from a more human genetic side of things, what were you looking at there that really tweaked for you that this is the impact I want to have, this is the job I want to go into?

    Reuben:
    From the human side. What actually clicked for me was there was some very tiny piece of information that I found out when I was in third year working casually for that lab. I mean, actually that makes a difference to other researchers who could then build on to make something of a difference for humankind, which was just, I felt very special. It was a tiny bit at that point. You know, I felt really special. It was like, "Oh, that is so cool."

    Sarah:
    What was the discovery? You can't remember?

    Reuben:
    Figuring out how one particular protein interacted with another in a pathway, just one small link.

    Sarah:
    Wow. I bet those are the small things that lead to huge, huge changes in the way that people research and discover information.

    Reuben:
    Yes.

    Sarah:
    So cool. So now in your job that you have ended up in, I heard that you recently joined the ethical review of human projects, which is something I think that most of us have only heard about through movies. Tell us about that next chapter of applying biotechnology and genetics knowledge and what aspects there are to pushing the limits of human experimentation, what clinical trials you're working on, what are the main discussion points currently about biotechnology ethics. I think it's a world that affects us more than we probably know. And also that we, I wouldn't necessarily know what kind of qualifications you would even need to get into that role. So how did that translate for you through study into the job?

    Reuben:
    During my research life, I realized that the lab... At one point, I realized that the lab may not be the best place for me with where I was in my life at that point and ventured out to see what was out there and went to this industry conference and realized that commercializing science was pretty fun. I actually enjoyed getting science from research from the lab, which has some potential through to preclinical trials and trials, clinical trials and so on and so forth.

    Reuben:
    In my current role, I don't actually work on the ethics side itself. My role is sort of working at the intersection of science and business. My role is innovation manager. So what I do is looking internally at the organization and saying, okay, what can we do better? What else we could be doing to help the clinical trial community so on and so forth? Yeah.

    Sarah:
    This is so interesting to me that you can go from being very lab focused to then jumping into a business kind of innovation orientated role, which again, I don't think people know is a pathway at all in science. So where did you get that exposure and opportunity and experience to then jump from lab to real world applications? How did you encounter Bellberry as a place?

    Reuben:
    Sure. As in research, even in the industry, when you reach out to people with a genuine interest in what you wanted to do or what you wanted to explore, they will go above and beyond to help you understand what it means to work in that sector. So when I reached out to somebody that I met at that conference and followed up and said, "Hey, I'm really interested in this commercialization side of things. Can I have a coffee with you and sort of explore that a little bit?" That happened and a few months down the track, I got exposed to a venture capital company that invests in the life sciences sector. And to cut a long story short, I got offered an internship with them that really opened up, okay, so this is how something is taken from the lab and actually to the market.

    Reuben:
    That was really the eye opening experience. And then I was looking for opportunities in that area. Prior to Bellberry, I was working with the state government grants program that worked with companies not only in the biotech sector, but more broadly to help them from getting something from research through to the market. Bellberry role came about a year and a half ago now, I think, and I had a chat with the CEO and said I really love what they did in terms of they have a very unique business model as to how they operated and that they make such a huge impact to the Australian clinical trial ecosystem.

    Reuben:
    To start off with, they're a profit-for-purpose company, so all of our profits actually go back into the clinical trial sector and that fascinated me. And where other ethics committees around the country have still a much better turnaround times compared to some other countries in the world, Bellberry averages are very, very quick to turnaround time. It just fascinated me how they've professionalized the ethical review side of things. Yeah. And that drew me to them. The role itself offered me a lot of opportunities to grow, and I took it with both hands.

    Sarah:
    That's so cool. I imagine you just throwing off the lab coat and being like, "Oh, I'll be a scientist in a different way."

    Reuben:
    I still get to see science. Don't get me wrong. I still like research. I still see a lot of research. So that side of me is still happy.

    Sarah:
    Still satisfied. Yeah.

    Reuben:
    But I get more satisfaction taking that to the market, I guess.

    Sarah:
    I mean, that's even more reassuring though to know that you don't have to let go of one side completely. There are ways to just slowly, slowly mould your career until they fit all the areas of things that you might want to do.

    Sarah:
    So on a day-to-day basis, what does an innovation role look like? Where do you think in that industry of clinical trials and genetics in that sense, where do you think innovation is most needed? What are you reviewing from an innovation perspective? What do you think needs to change? What are the big issues out there that we, as the general public might need to know about or want to do some further research into?

    Reuben:
    Firstly, I think putting aside the innovation for a moment, from a general public perspective, I guess a lot more support for research. Research in Australia support has been a bit wavering from more the policy level. So more of that would mean that more of great Australian research can happen, which means more things can go back to patients and making life... making a difference for them.

    Reuben:
    And not just for patients, but I mean, I'm talking about patients because that's the sector I work in, but not just that, even in agriculture, in wine, in bioremediation, and there's all sorts of things researchers and research need to be supported much more, much better to help and actually creating those opportunities to get that outcome down the track.

    Reuben:
    From an innovation perspective, having the constant mindset of how can we do things better, what can we do to make our customer's life or user's lives easier, or how can we make a difference even more to end users or patients or so on and so forth. Having that mindset really.

    Sarah:
    Yeah. You mentioned as well some of the other industries outside of just patient focus you can go into. In terms of what else you could have done with your degree and how much broader the pathways are, I think, than we originally expect are, what are some of the things your peers or fellow graduates have gone into?

    Reuben:
    All sorts of different things. A lot of them have stayed in research and doing well. Others have gone into sales for not just research products, but also for pharmaceutical products, biotechnology products, medical device products. Some of them have gone into the regulatory side of things. So the TGA, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. So more the policy side of things, regulation side of things.

    Reuben:
    A lot of them are in clinical research. So sites that conduct the clinical research, your pharma companies. So working inside of pharma companies, developing a lot of these drugs and devices and so on and so forth, and completely different areas such as banks and your Big Four consulting companies and law and intellectual property. I guess you could do anything you want of a science degree because it really builds that problem solving capability in you, and I think a lot of employers absolutely want that.

    Sarah:
    It's a very specific way of thinking that you get trained into, which I think is valuable across disciplines, which is much more diverse, I think, than we understand. What would you say are some of the coolest projects going on out there in the clinical trial world or just in society generally that we might have heard of and not realized or associated with biotechnology graduates?

    Reuben:
    One of the cool things that's happening in medicine, I guess, is a CAR T-cell. So it's-

    Sarah:
    Introduce it as if you were talking to a five-year-old. That's my level of scientific understanding right now.

    Reuben:
    So taking your own blood cells and manipulating it slightly to then put it back into a cancer patient's body to recognize their own cancer cells and kill them. But the big difference between your traditional drugs and a CAR T-cell therapy is that your own cells are actually removing the cancer for you and compared to drugs, there's not much side effects.

    Sarah:
    Wow. Oh, my gosh. See, these are the innovations, I think, that we all hear about in the news and pop culture and we're like, "Wow, that's so interesting," but you don't actually know who is doing it and how they train to get into it. Is a lot of your passion or interest in that oncology space or is it like I think, also medical devices and stuff like that is so interesting.

    Reuben:
    Absolutely. Oncology is definitely a space that I like obviously, because of connections I've got, but also human biology generally is fun. It's complex and it's problem solving. So it's pretty fun. When the end result is actually making a difference to someone's life that you know, it means a lot.

    Sarah:
    It's meaningful. Yeah, absolutely. What about some real world examples closer to home? I know the Research Centre for Infectious Diseases at the University of Adelaide is doing a lot of projects ongoing. Is there any big breakthroughs that we would recognize that apply to our day-to-day life?

    Reuben:
    Well, absolutely. So Prof. James Paton and Dr. Mohammed Alsharifi, they've come up with a vaccine. It's still under development. They've come up with a vaccine that provides protection across all the different subtypes of streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia. The current vaccine out there only provides protection against 13 of the 98 different types, whereas this one offers protection against all the different 98 types of streptococcus pneumoniae.

    Reuben:
    To put it in perspective, streptococcus pneumoniae kills about one to two million people every year and actually kills more children than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. So this vaccine that they are developing will provide protection against all the different 98 types of streptococcus pneumoniae, which is fascinating.

    Sarah:
    That absolutely blows my mind, firstly, that there are 98 different types, secondly, that there's now something that addresses 98 different things at once.

    Reuben:
    Absolutely.

    Sarah:
    Oh, my gosh. What about representations of biotechnology in pop culture? Are we getting close to what's real or are there any things that make you cringe because they're so unrealistic? Like Iron Man you know how I mentioned at the beginning. I loved how a core course in your degree is actually called science or fiction. Like in first year, you guys all have to study science or fiction. Are there any shows that you watch where you're like, that's actually what we're close to or that's so far away from what's ever possible?

    Reuben:
    I guess you never say never. Right? Yeah.

    Sarah:
    Well, that's a great attitude. I like that.

    Reuben:
    You have to constantly push the boundaries of science to get somewhere and what may not be possible or what may be fiction might be a reality in 10 years' time. Who knows? I mean, when I first heard about the CAR T-cell therapy, for example, I thought, "That is so cool. Whoever came up with that? That is so cool."

    Sarah:
    Yeah. Who would have even thought of doing that? I also get so fascinated in science that for every discovery that happens, someone had to think of that. Like someone had to think of that before anyone else had ever mentioned it. They had to go, why don't we just do it this way?

    Reuben:
    Well, equally, as with a lot of scientific discoveries, you do something and you actually do something wrong and figure out, "Ah, so that actually happens. Now let me explore that." And you find out a lot of things.

    Sarah:
    Yeah. Like a happy accident that turns out-

    Reuben:
    Yes, absolutely.

    Sarah:
    What about the electives that you did in your course? Were there ways that you could start to really hone in on things early or were there some subjects that we might not expect that you were able to study back at the time that helped form who you are today?

    Reuben:
    Oh, absolutely. I'm so grateful that my biotech degree at Adelaide Uni had an exposure to intellectual property and business and finance. So invaluable. Doing science is great, but just seeing how that interacts with the industry, just having that built into the course right from the start actually makes your view on things slightly different because you're like, "Ah, actually, so how does that actually translate back into the real world?" So you get a sense of how that works from the lab, but also then eventually that gets taken to the industry right from the start.

    Sarah:
    That's so, so interesting. I think we have this idea that the degrees are all really just labs and lab coats and stuff like that. But I love knowing that that holistic view of the impact that you're going to have out in the real world is honed in to you guys from very early on so that you have a view of where you might actually use it.

    Reuben:
    I mean, in saying that, if your calling or if your passion is in the lab and finding things out in the lab, great. If not, there's so many other things that you could pursue as well, I guess. Whenever I speak to students, I always say this thing, really have an open mind. Because if you had asked me in undergrad whether I would be working for the industry, I would say, "No, not at all." Here I am.

    Reuben:
    It's just having an open mind really all throughout your degree and I guess all throughout your life. Just follow your passions, and if it takes you somewhere, explore it. It may work out, it may not work out. There's been things that didn't work out for me. So it's just having that mindset of, okay, I'll try it out and see what happens. If it works, it works. It doesn't, it doesn't.

    Sarah:
    Yeah, that's a wonderful attitude. Experimentation is really how you find out what you like and what you don't like, what you're good at and what you're not good at. I think it is so wonderful to hear that the University of Adelaide does allow you to explore so much of the scientists you might become and decide that some of it isn't you, but also decide that some of it might be you and then get into industry and do internships and do placements that allow you to explore that fully.

    Sarah:
    What would be your ultimate biotechnology dream? So if you had all the resources and all the grants and all the facilities in the world, and you were able to solve one big problem in your career like a coronavirus vaccine or a cure for cancer, what would be your big, big dream?

    Reuben:
    Cure for cancer for sure. There's a reason why I got into that area. And it's just such a devastating disease, not just for the person going through it, but for people surrounding them, too. So if I had one wish and if I can do something, I would absolutely be that.

    Sarah:
    You would do that. Wow, I can see that. I can see what it would be. It's a big passion for you. Just to explain to people who don't understand the actual molecular level of curing cancer, if we did discover a cure for one particular type of cancer like ovarian cancer, for example, would that be useful to the other forms of cancer or would we need a literal cure for every different form of cancer? Is there such thing as a cancer cure?

    Reuben:
    Maybe. I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. Maybe. I'm going to use the CAR T-cell therapy example again. So initially, that therapy was used at liquid cancers. However, a lot of companies around the world, a lot of labs around the world are working on, even in Adelaide actually, are working on... at Adelaide University I should say, are working on not just liquid cancers anymore, but also in solid cancers for example.

    Sarah:
    What's the difference between liquid and solid cancers?

    Reuben:
    So something like a blood cancer versus something like a tumour that you get. So who knows maybe CAR T-cell therapy can solve it? I don't know. But in saying that, every cancer is quite complex, every subtype of every cancer has its own characteristics. That's why it is one of the harder diseases to cure, I guess. But yeah, there's a lot of things in the pipeline that definitely have hope.

    Sarah:
    Yeah. Oh, that's very exciting and reassuring. What would you say to people who don't think science is for them? Because I kind of see you as someone who right from school was really fascinated in the sciences, but for people who don't necessarily think of themselves as a stereotypical science... you know, strong in the sciences, but who still might be able to have a wonderful career in it, what would you say to them?

    Reuben:
    Well, as I said, have an open mind. I mean, I was okay in maths and I didn't really enjoy it as much as I enjoyed biology, physics and chemistry, and that's okay. I did what I needed to, but didn't really take an interest beyond that. Pursued with sciences and then for my work now, I work with a lot of numbers, a lot of spreadsheets and stuff, and I love it. It's just having that open mindset, I guess, because you may not like something now, but that doesn't mean you won't like that a year down the track or five years down the track.

    Reuben:
    I know actually I have friends who joined the biotechnology degree as a mature adult and the reason why they did that was because they didn't have the fulfillment with whatever they were doing and they found a passion towards this and yeah, they're still... One of them is actually a postdoctoral scientist at SAHMRI doing lots of fun stuff.

    Sarah:
    Wow. That also reminds me that when we are at that age where we have to choose our degrees, we're very young. And I think we do get this warped narrow view that scientists looked like this, doctors look like this, lawyers... and there's only like five jobs that exist. And even just exploring the opportunities in this podcast alone have opened my eyes in a way that I never knew when I was in high school. And a lot of what we study there doesn't necessarily translate to what your job would look like either, which is why it's so interesting to talk to you about the ways that you've been able to awaken that passion and turn it into practice.

    Reuben:
    Thank you. Yeah. I think going forward, everything will converge even more. So everything will be very interdisciplinary. For example, for taking a scientific research with potential to the market, you will need all sorts of specialty backgrounds to take it to the market. To give you an example, you will need a patent attorney with a science background to actually help protect the intellectual property for you. That requires the next background and a little bit of law, a little bit of science and so forth. Yeah.

    Sarah:
    So much integration. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Reuben. It has been wonderful to pick your brain about all the things that make the human body amazing and the ways that we can work in that area to improve our future.

    Reuben:
    Thank you very much. That was great.

    Sarah:
    Thanks for listening to In Their Element. It's been an absolute pleasure bringing it to you. If you enjoyed what you heard, be sure to subscribe to the series and we'll send you an alert the moment our next episode drops. More importantly, if the career path you've heard about here, appeals to you, jump on the Uni of Adelaide website today to learn all about the science degrees that can get you there. Until next time. Bye-bye.