From Lab to Impact: Alina C. Zdechlik & Gene Delivery Technologies

Alina C. Zdechlik, a recent PhD graduate from the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics in the College of Biological Sciences and a current postdoc in Daniel Schmidt’s lab in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development, now understands what it takes to go from lab to impact. In the last year, Zdechlik has participated in several virtual education opportunities to learn how to commercialize her research findings, including the Inclusive Innovators Forum, the MIN-Corps Value Proposition Design course in the spring, and the summer iCorps program.

Zdechlik’s research focuses on the area of gene delivery technologies for use in gene therapies; specifically viral capsid protein engineering. Back in 2018 as a graduate student, she began learning about advancing her research commercially by filing a provisional patent with the help of Anne Hall in the UMN Technology Commercialization office (see a list of Technology Commercialization staff). Through this journey with Tech Comm, Zdechlik has discovered a love for the innovation process, applied research, patent law, and advancing technologies beyond the basic research lab.

Originally, she thought it was too early to commercialize her technology, but through what she learned in the Inclusive Innovators Forum and subsequent programs, she realized that was a limiting belief.

“It’s a lot more accessible than I thought,” said Zdechlik, “There are a lot of systems in place to help young people spin out technologies. In my mind, I thought I was too young and too early in my career to start something, but I’m starting to realize that’s not the case. In some of these programs, there are undergraduates or earlier grad students who already know they want to start a company!”

Her recommendation for other young innovators is not to be afraid to ask for help or advice, but to be clear about the expectations of everyone involved.

“There are so many people willing to help you explore options,” said Zdechlik. “Tech Comm has been a huge support, and in particular, Mary MacCarthy in the Venture Center. MIN-Corp's Carla Pavone has also been an incredible advocate. One of my iCorps mentors was someone from the Tech Comm Business Advisory Group, and I wouldn’t have connected with her if not for Tech Comm and Carla Pavone.”

With this mentorship and potential collaborations with UMN hematologists and immunologists, Zdechlik hopes to stay in Minnesota and take her innovations as far as she can. She is interested in forming a startup company and plans to pursue funding through government programs that scientists can use to advance early stage companies, such as SBIR and STTR.

Visit University Inventors to learn more about working with the Tech Comm office and find commercialization resources. Visit MIN-Corps Programs to learn more about MIN-Corp's workshops and other opportunities for innovators.