Where Are They Now: Etienne Melese

At BioCanRx, we are incredibly proud of our HQP and their dedication to cancer immunotherapy research. Whether they are working on viruses in the lab or examining the socioeconomic barriers to adopting certain treatments in Canada, each one plays a unique role in strengthening our network and expertise in immunotherapy.


BioCanRx is invested in our HQP by providing them with both the training and skills they need to be leaders in academia and industry.


1. Tell us about yourself. Give us a brief background. Who are you? Where did you go to school and what is your association to BioCanRx?


Hello! My name is Etienne Melese, I am an immunologist by training. I received my Ph.D. in Immunology November 2022 from University of British Columbia under Dr. Ninan Abraham’s supervision.


2. Where do you work now, and what is your position?


I am an Associate Scientist in Preclinical Pharmacology at Abdera Therapeutics.


3. What does a typical workday look like for you?


At Abdera Therapeutics I work with a dynamic team of amazing scientists to help develop targeted radiotherapies. In my position, I am responsible for design, execution, and organization of several ongoing pre-clinical studies. Our studies are designed to establish the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of our therapeutics.


4. How has your experience with BioCanRx contributed to your career development?


The experience I had in the learning institute in 2019 was a game changer. Being paired with a patient scholar in the learning institute was such a rare experience in my graduate career. It enabled me to translate science in a way that helped hammer home the exciting cutting-edge work being done by researchers in Canada. Having these types of experiences lead me to pursue a career where I can be closer to design and implementation of life changing therapeutics for cancer patients.


5. Can you tell us a little about your career path and what led you to the role you are in today?


During my Ph.D. in Immunology, I was lucky enough to foster successful collaborations with BC Cancer Research Center. Through this, I was able to bring the exciting research from the Abraham lab on T cell development and function to projects in lung cancer. In pursuing these projects/diving deep into the complex biology of T cells in cancer, I saw many opportunities for potentially targeting and helping improve anti-tumor responses. After completing my Ph.D. I joined adMare Bioinnovations as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Biologics group. At adMare I worked on research related to several novel therapeutics and ended up fostering excellent relationships with a startup company called Abdera Therapeutics. After this, I joined Abdera Therapeutics in a new role in Preclinical Pharmacology that would enable me to use my background in oncology and immunology. This position has been an amazing step in my career growth.


6. What are some of the biggest challenges you face day-to-day?


The biggest challenges I face are constantly navigating organizational skillsets. The ability to balance and maintain goals/timelines in a fast-paced work environment is key to success in industry. I am forced to re-evaluate how I organize my time and get creative with strategies to stay on top of all the materials required.


7. What advice do you have on developing key relationships throughout your career?


Being open to ask for help. To elaborate, everyone needs a little boost especially early in career development. I learned that asking questions, getting feedback, and critically thinking about what I wanted to pursue helped me learn how to progress.


8. Are there any important steps you took to prepare you for this field?


I would say my graduate career in immunology, being open to collaborations along the way big and small and starting learning how to organize myself early.


9. Was there anything you wish you knew before entering the workforce?


Before my initial job applications, I wish I had taken the time to breath and consider what types of roles would best suite me.


10. What surprised you the most about your job?


In this role what has surprised me is how motivating every day can me. When projects are this exciting it becomes both a job and a passion. Makes the day-to-day navigating much easier.


11. What current issues or trends in the field you are working in should a newcomer be aware of?


I think in biotech there is currently a lot of competition for scientist roles. Therefore, it is good to engage people at companies of interest early to get a sense of best fit. This can even lead to potential job opportunities not posted.


12. What job/workplace characteristics did you consider before accepting your current position (i.e. work culture, people, remote vs in-person etc.)?


For work culture I wanted a place to be part of a team. Importantly a team that was very collaborative and actively sought to engage in teamwork activities. In-person was my preference. Abdera has offered an excellent place to work!


13. What do you enjoy most about your current role?


I love the ability to be at the cutting edge of research and have so many opportunities for career growth every day.


14. What skills do you think are most important for someone interested in a position like yours? How can you acquire these skills or better these skills?


The skills I think most prepared me for this role are: Clear communication, organization, experience in related field and types of research, and ability to troubleshoot on the fly.


15. What do you think are the major qualifications required for success in this field?


Ability to manage projects, from onset. Understanding how to navigate tough scientific challenges and not be afraid to learn.


16. Did you have any professional experiences unrelated to your field that you found helped you excel in your current position?


Yes! I think having hobbies such as volleyball and singing in choirs helps me be open to meeting new people and new experiences.


17. What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?


I would suggest early in grad school getting exposure to industry either through collaboration, reaching out to recruiters or Scientists in your network with roles that seem interesting.


18. How would you describe your work environment? Was that something you looked into before accepting your current position?


Yes, absolutely. It was important for me to have a collaborative but also supportive work environment.


19. What are your future goals?


In the future I want to help improve patients lives. If any aspect of my career can help reduce the burden of cancer on families, I want to find it and push till change happens.


20. Do you have any advice on how to establish a work/life balance?


Keep the fun, have passions outside of the workplace. Personally, I enjoy bird watching, swimming, volleyball and singing in the Vancouver Men’s Choir.


21. Do you have any advice for the younger HQP who are currently developing their career paths?


Ask for help and follow what makes you excited.