Student Spotlight: James Baylis, PhD ’18
Originally published on the Faculty of Applied Sciences website. Permission was granted by the Faculty of Applied Sciences to republish this article on the Michael Smith Laboratories website. This article highlights James Baylis, a graduate student in biomedical engineering at the Faculty of Applied Science in partnership with the Michael Smith Laboratories. James Baylis is part of the Kastrup Lab at the Michael Smith Laboratories.
JAMES BAYLIS, PHD ‘ 18, BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING
“Engineering at UBC has taught me how vast and mysterious the path is for advancing medical products from proof-of-concept to the clinic.”
In 2012, I completed my BSc in biophysics at UBC and began graduate studies in biomedical engineering at the Faculty of Applied Science in partnership with the Michael Smith Laboratories. My thesis project, supervised by Dr. Christian Kastrup, is on developing a drug delivery platform which can increase the transport of topically applied therapeutics into wounds, which could increase patient care in trauma and surgery. Because of the versatility of this drug delivery platform, we have created a spinoff company to commercialize the technology. This company, CoMotion Drug Delivery Systems, has already licensed the patent application and is operational — performing collaborative research with major players in trauma care. Our first product candidates are medical devices that rapidly stop bleeding, and there is much excitement regarding the development of these devices for managing bleeding in surgery and on the battlefield, where bleeding is a major cause of preventable death.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED IN ENGINEERING THAT IS MOST VALUABLE?
Engineering at UBC has taught me how vast and mysterious the path is for advancing medical products from proof-of-concept to the clinic. There are many steps — such as patenting, regulated preclinical testing, manufacturing and clinical trial design — that involve many key players — such as clinicians, purchasers, investors and industrial partners — with unique interests and expectations. Studying biomedical engineering at UBC has provided me with the technical expertise for developing and implementing solutions for managing these expectations.
HOW ARE YOU APPLYING THE SKILLS YOU LEARNED THROUGH YOUR STUDIES AT UBC?
My PhD taught me invaluable skills that are immediately applicable in my field. Since CoMotion is developing the technology that was the subject of my thesis, I’m able to continue to apply and refine my technical skills in device design and preclinical testing. It also provides a unique opportunity to focus on learning new skills, such as business development and finance, since I am already intimately familiar with the technology that CoMotion is based upon.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE/VALUABLE NON-ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE STUDYING ENGINEERING AT UBC?
My most valuable non-academic experiences at UBC have been through affiliation with entrepreneurship@UBC (e@UBC). Early in my graduate studies, e@UBC taught me how to assess the commercializable value in the research we were doing, and it has connected me with valuable mentors who continue to guide me in my development as an entrepreneur.
HOW DO YOU FEEL A GRADUATE DEGREE IN ENGINEERING HAS BENEFITED YOU COMPARED TO A DIFFERENT FIELD OF STUDY?
Prior to embarking upon my graduate degree in engineering, I didn’t know how much work was involved in translating a scientific discovery to one that benefits human health. Studying engineering has connected me with other engineers, entrepreneurs and clinicians who have been key to building my understanding of the massive amount of collaboration and expertise required to create meaningful improvements in health care.