Where Are They Now: Nikolas Martin

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?


Guten Tag! My name is Nikolas Martin and as you can maybe tell by the introduction, I grew up and went to school in a small town in northern Germany. I always was (and of course still am) interested in finding out how things work: This led not only to my hobby of working on vintage cars and bikes in my free time, but also to the strong desire to pursue a career in science, especially molecular biology. As studying straight up molecular biology was not an option when I graduated from high school, I started studying biochemistry at the Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany. During my Master’s I got some first exposure to cloning and molecular biology and immediately fell in love with it. I then continued with a PhD, or, to be exact, the German equivalent of Dr. rer. nat. at the Hannover Medical School where I first worked with oncolytic viruses. The whole idea of using pathogenic agents as treatment options for the terrible disease that is cancer convinced me to stay in the field of virology, especially oncolytic virotherapy and I therefore continued my academic career with a postdoctoral fellowship. I applied for a position in the renowned Lab of Dr. John Bell at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in 2017 and was very happy when Dr Bell gave me the opportunity to join his team. Despite always telling my wife we would be going somewhere warm for my postdoc, I was able to convince her to move to Ottawa with me, and an initial 2-year postdoc quickly turned into 5 years of exciting research on vaccinia viruses, self-amplifying RNAs, inducible expression systems, and virus-like-particles. During this time, I was introduced to the many workshops and learning opportunities offered by BioCanRx, most notably attending the annual Summit for Cancer Immunotherapy.


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


During my postdoc, I started to collaborate with the Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre (BMC) by applying my knowledge of molecular biology in the context of OV therapy to a couple of client projects. The intriguing combination of cutting-edge research and direct application of this research by manufacturing therapeutics for clinical applications offered by the BMC convinced me to join this highly specialized, one-of a kind facility as Lead of the Innovation department, part of the R&D team, in early 2022. In this role, I am using molecular biology and virology approaches to deepen our understanding of the production of viral vectors and to accelerate and simplify viral vector production.


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


Given the project-based nature of my work, every day looks different. Of course, studies and experiments must be reproducible and therefore frequently I do the same thing a couple of times in a row. But apart from this, every project brings new challenges which require careful planning and a lot of background research. My work in the Innovation Department combines aspects of basic research, study design, and assay development. For all these different aspects I can rely on the experience and help of other members of the R&D team, creating a collaborative and friendly environment.


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


Attending workshops and conferences organized by BioCanRx gave me the opportunity to network a lot and enabled me to connect to many people working in the Cancer Therapy microcosmos in Canada. I don’t think I would have the position I currently hold without these opportunities.


5. What advice do you have for career development that you would pass on to other BioCanRx trainees?


Never underestimate the importance of networking events and always stay open minded about chances for career development. Go to seminars, attend conferences, participate in workshops. Go out and talk to people! The development and design of biotherapeutics is part of an exponentially growing field, both academically and economically. Just because one position might not be the right one for you, doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of other, better opportunities. As science never stops, always keep up to date and read the latest publications. Lastly, do what you enjoy doing and what you do best: If you love science, it won’t feel like work at all.