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Dr. Soni discusses his experience in both the academic and industry sectors and his outlook on mentoring in the field.

  

Members Spotlight: Sandeep Soni, MD

ISCT 2022 Meeting Co-Chair
ISCT Immuno & Gene Therapy Committee Co-Chair



By:
Ashley Krull, PhD
Telegraft Contributing Editor
Mayo Clinic Rochester
Rochester, United States


Interview with Dr. Sandeep Soni


Sandeep Soni, MD
Executive Medical Director, Clinical Development
CRISPR Therapeutics, Inc.
Clinical Associate Professor, Division of Pediatric BMT
University of California, San Francisco












How long have you been an ISCT member? 

I have been a member for a long time, but I have been more involved and active in the society since 2015.

What is your educational history?

I did my training in pediatric hematology/oncology and stem cell transplant in India, Israel, and the US. Cellular therapies are a natural off-shoot of stem cell transplant, and I continue to learn about the new developments, platforms, and regulations for gene therapies as the field progresses.

What was your first job in cell & gene therapy?

My first job was as a pediatric stem cell transplant physician, as the cell/gene therapies had not evolved at that time. Stem cell transplant physicians were the only group well versed in the selection, collection, cryopreservation, shipping and administration of autologous and allogeneic cells, which laid the ground rules of the current cellular and immune-effector therapies.

Looking back, what were some of your more challenging and/or exciting career transitions?

The exciting transition was when I made the shift to industry in 2013 to work on the first-in-human gene therapy trials at Bluebird Bio. The initial learnings related to drug manufacturing, clinical development and regulatory interactions were helpful in developing a niche skill set in the field.

What would you say have been your favorite studies/projects to work on?

Without a doubt, improving stem cell transplant outcomes in hemoglobinopathies and later involvement with developing first-in-human gene therapy trials for these disorders at Bluebird Bio and Crispr Therapeutics have been the most rewarding experiences for me.

Having worked in a variety of sectors, for example, academia and industry, what kind of differences have you observed ? 

While academia thrives on individual efforts and rewards it accordingly, drug development in industry is a team sport and relies on effective interactions between different functions. In academia, the resources get distributed among faculty pursuing different and individual goals. On the other hand, a company is usually focused on drug development of a limited number of drug candidates, and resources are aligned to achieve those targeted goals. There are pros and cons for each of these approaches, but the important step is to recognize the differences and mold your work ethics to be in tune with the needs of the underlying sector.

What drives you to have a foot in academia as well as industry?

Teaching plays an important role in academia, and the ability to impart knowledge to students and junior physicians early in their career path is a rewarding experience for me.

Do you have a particular outlook on mentoring in the field?

Recognizing the current challenges and upcoming hurdles in the field is very important. This helps in addressing the skill sets required to develop the next generation of workforce as the CGT field evolves. I try to impart knowledge about current and upcoming challenges and tools needed to overcome these hurdles, so that mentees can develop the required skill sets.

Any advice from mentors that you would like to pass on?

Be open to challenges and accept unexplored career paths.

Any advice you would give an early-stage professional now? 

  1. Get more than one mentor - having a couple of external mentors (not from your institution) is helpful.
  2. Be open to accept unprecedented roles and uncharted career paths.

What type of benefits have you experienced from ISCT membership?

Exposure to varied cell and gene therapy platforms other than my area of expertise, participation in the ISCT immune-gene therapy committee, networking with colleagues from the regulatory and manufacturing functions and mentoring ESPs have been the highlights of ISCT membership for me.

What does a typical day off look like for you?

Relax, watch a movie or cricket, and a bonus if I can get a couple of pickleball games under my belt.

What motivated you to serve as a co-chair for the ISCT 2022 Annual Meeting? What did you most enjoy during the meeting?

My initial goal was to learn about recent developments in cell and gene therapies other than just gene-editing (e.g., MSCs and extracellular vesicles) and network with experts in these areas. As we progressed with the development of the programs for the annual meeting, I really enjoyed my interactions with my co-chairs, organizing committee members and ISCT administration. Everyone came up with innovative ideas and suggestions, and the camaraderie among the organizing team members to make this in-person meeting a success was wonderful.

 For me, the rapid acceptance and positive feedback of the new meeting format by the attendees was rewarding as a co-chair of the annual meeting. It was great to see the involvement of the ESP members, and the structure and planning of the exhibit area were outstanding.

How can people connect with you? (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)

I can be reached via my LinkedIn profile


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