Degree from Michigan: B.S. in Biology
Current location: New York City
Year graduated: 2009
Student Organization Involvement: UROP, Hillel, Greek Life, Order of Omega Honor Society
Other jobs held or graduate programs attended since graduation: Research Assistant at Case Western Reserve University: worked in a lab that focused on HIV drug resistance and viral fitness, masters student at Georgetown University: obtained master’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology,intern at QIAGEN: supported the research, design, and development of a molecular diagnostic assay for the detection of STI-causing bacteria, research assistant at Rockefeller University, Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics: investigated protein complexes in tumors in conjunction with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Matt Koletsky is currently working as an automation associate at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals doing research and development in the Protein Expression Sciences Department. He is responsible for developing and operating an automated, high-throughput, antibody isolation technology platform that utilizes liquid handlers (robots) and molecular and cellular biology protocols.
KC: Tell me about your role at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
MK: Regeneron makes monoclonal antibodies (drugs) for multiple disease targets. One of our big products right now is for macular degeneration. My job is to operate a high throughput process involving automation (robots) to produce many different antibodies (forms of different drugs). The generated antibodies will then go through multiple screening processes. One of them may ultimately be selected for clinical testing.
Keep in mind that we use biological processes involving mammalian cells to develop our drugs – this is different from other pharmaceutical companies that traditionally produce chemically based drugs.
KC: Could you tell me a bit more about the robots?
MK: We utilize robots to perform the molecular and cellular biology protocols involved in making a lot of different antibodies. I am trying to figure out how to program the robots to do this in a high throughput fashion. I have to think about questions like “How many antibodies can we make in x amount of time?” and “How can we make this system better?” l approach these questions scientifically, but also from a cost/efficiency standpoint.
KC: What made you want to conduct research in a corporate environment, as opposed to at a university or government organization?
MK: With research, you can go into government, industry, or academics. Personally, as I went through undergrad, I knew I wanted to be in biotech. However, the economy wasn’t great at the time I graduated, so the biotech industry wasn’t really hiring at my level. That’s why I initially started down the academic research route at Case Western. Afterwards, I picked Georgetown for a master’s degree because it offered an internship component, which allowed me to work for QIAGEN and get some exposure to the biotech industry. My experience ultimately led me to Regeneron, which offered exactly the kind of biotech job that I was looking for.
KC: How do you feel your time as an undergrad at Michigan influenced your career path?
MK: When I got to Michigan, I started on the pre-med track. I was never sure that I wanted to be a doctor, but I was fascinated by my science courses in high school. I thought that by starting on that track, I would have at some point in the four years, an epiphany that I wanted to be a doctor. I never had that moment, and to this day, I still have not had that moment. Instead, I embraced alternate ways I could study science that would allow me to make a living. I am driven by the commitment of having a beneficial impact on the health and well-being of others, so I wanted a position that would enable me to be involved in the research and development of the next generation of medical technologies and treatments.
At Michigan, I was fortunate to be part of the UROP program, and having a phenomenal school like Michigan on my resume helped me to get summer internships in the lab and in the biotech industry. Also, making contacts in my fraternity and with professors and alumni has proven to be very useful.
KC: What are your favorite and least favorite things about your job?
MK: One of my favorite things about my job is being a part of cutting edge research and technology that will lead to the next generation of medicine. I work with brilliant, great people and have access to amazing resources.
My least favorite aspect: as is the case with all science, not everything works. Figuring out why things don't work and how to improve processes can be challenging and at times overwhelming.
KC: What advice would you give to current students hoping to follow in a similar career path?
MK: Network, network, network! I’ve gone on LinkedIn multiple times and found Michigan alumni at companies and in fields that I’ve been interested in. It’s a great icebreaker to say that you’re from U of M. Don’t be shy about that – Michigan people love Michigan people!