30 September 2021

Science meets forest in the heart of the Netherlands: highlights of Oncode’s first Postdoc Retreat

Bianca-Olivia Nita

Bianca-Olivia Nita

Here is a recipe: take a group of postdoc researchers from different Oncode labs and bring them to De Werelt, this beautiful and calm location in the middle of the Netherlands, surrounded by forest. Have them stay for two days. Add scientific sessions covering a wide variety of topics and alternate with collaborative pitches for participants. Add two keynote lectures, a debate, a poster session and an extensive workshop on Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship as well. Season it all with exploratory career discussions, with five different guests working in different fields. Finally, mix in lots of breaks for informal talks and networking. The result is Oncode’s first Postdoc Retreat that took place last week. And now that the feedback is in, we know the recipe was a success.

The two scientific sessions gave the participants space to share their work in a format that felt open and warm, welcoming questions and remarks from their peers. The sessions were active with a full room, no empty chairs, and absolutely no laptops in sight.

Following the first day’s the scientific sessions (divided in two), the morning and afternoon, was an exciting keynote from dr. Mike Levin from Tufts University, Medford (US). He joined the group via Zoom and took our PostDoc delegates through an enthusiastic talk on “Endogenous bioelectric networks drive morphogenetic decisions during embryogenesis, regeneration, and cancer.” The day concluded with a debate on the Future of Academia, in which six debaters presented their views on the current competitive model, and this was followed by a spirited discussion with exciting ideas and questions in exchange from the audience.

The second day featured an in-depth workshop presented by Oncode’s valorization experts Amber Liu and Alexander Turkin on Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship, which focused how to protect and develop inventions as they arise. Keep an eye on our website for more resources that will pop up soon, such as new knowledge primers, info sheet on pre-spinout considerations and useful knowledge clips. For any questions you might have on the topic, you can always contact Amber Liu.

After the workshop, seasoned biotech entrepreneur prof. Eric Claassen delivered his valorization keynote entitled “Innovation barriers and ways to remove them.” In this address, he fostered deeper understanding of IP and Entrepreneurship fundamentals with illustrative and concrete examples.

Day 2 culminated with the Career Paths session, where we welcomed five special guests: Dr. Daniela Begolo (Senior associate VC at INKEF Capital), Dr. Vincent Blomen (director of target discovery at Scenic Biotech), Prof. Laura Heitman (Oncode Investigator and PI at LUMC), Dr. Frank de Manakker (Senior Manager in business development, sector Health & Life Sciences at EY) and Dr. Andrée Schram (Adviser on life science & health at the RVO). These wonderful guest speakers joined the retreat to speak candidly about their work, their career choices and what’s involved in doing the kind of work they do. Their presentations were followed by meet-and-greet moments where the participants could ask additional questions and connect with these guests. Make sure to check these vacancies at Scenic Biotech, mentioned by Vincent Bloemen, and this traineeship opportunity at INKEF Capital that Daniela Begolo spoke of in her presentation. It’s how she started her current career too.

At Oncode, we believe in the value of community and in learning from each other; the entire retreat aimed to do just that – build community and connect. We were very happy to have received a unanimous yes to the question of whether the participants met new people they could connect and learn from. Now coming back from this retreat, make sure to use the Oncode community platform if you want to maintain contact with each other or if you want to meet more new people.

Lastly, we’ve received a resounding yes from attendees on whether we should do this again: bring people together in a similar setting, to share science, ideas, and build new connections. We promise to oblige.

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