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Biotechnology Graduate Eyes Bigger Returns on Her Research

Shanza Tariq, who holds an M.S. in Biotechnology Management and Entrepreneurship, presented her research at a recent Katz School symposium.

By Dave DeFusco

When Shanza Baseer Tariq graduated in May with a master’s in Biotechnology Management and Entrepreneurship from the Katz School of Science and Health, she already had a publication track record and a job waiting for her as a research assistant at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

At Sloan Kettering, Shanza conducts basic research on immunotherapy, working with cell tissue cultures, propagating cell lines and doing experiments on the effects of viruses on tumors in mice.

“A big part of the job is propagating viruses. Some of the strains are pure or ones that we designed,” said Shanza, who's also involved in various project management roles. “I’m honored to be working at a renowned company, and I’m excited and pleased to be here.”

While she enjoys what Francis Bacon, a 17th-century philosopher whose work contributed to the scientific method, called “experiments of light”—research for research’s sake—Shanza’s heart is in turning research into products or, as Bacon would say, “experiments of fruit”—research intended to improve the material condition of humankind.

Commercializing scientific research, she said, is no different from commercializing anything else, except that scientists are looking for a market for a product rather than designing a product to fit an established or obvious market.

Shanza also was one of several Yeshiva University students who co-authored a paper on male infertility under the supervision of Dr. Margarita Vigodner, associate professor of biology at the Stern College for Women. Published in September 2021 in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communication, the study examined the unknown causes of male infertility, an important research challenge because infertility affects 8 to 12 percent of couples in the United States. Half of these cases are attributed to the male partner.

Her co-authors were Manveet Nanda, also a graduate of Katz’s biotechnology master’s program, Stern College graduates Tania Kiesel and Kayla Perlmutter, and research associate Dr. Amitabha Sengupta. Shanza and her team won for having the most "impactful" poster at the Katz School’s Symposium on Science, Technology and Health in May.

“The 11 projects showcased during the symposium offer a glimpse into the exciting work Katz School graduate students are doing to advance scholarly knowledge, impact industry challenges and transform lives,” said Katz School Dean Paul Russo.

As part of her capstone project, Shanza worked on contract with Vaderis Therapeutics, a biotechnology company based in Switzerland that focuses on the treatment of rare and orphan diseases, to perform a commercial assessment of a new molecular therapy for various vascular malformations. This assessment included researching the target market and market viability, competitor analysis, and market price analysis. As part of her research, she met with Vaderis Therapeutics leadership each week to provide valuable updates to the company.

Since April, she's been doing contract work with Tag & Associates in Chevy Chase, Md., conducting drug price analysis which helps biotechnology companies set a justified price for their drugs. This work and her experience at Vaderis Therapeutics are what attracted her to the Katz School’s biotechnology program from her native Pakistan.

“I liked that the program was project-based and that I not only took science but courses in finance, project management, clinical trials and digital media,” said Shanza. “Biotechnology is the only field of study that impacts every aspect of human life.”