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Michelle L. Zaharik

#iAmBiomed because I help science change lives.
Michelle's Biography

Dr. Zaharik is an accomplished Research and Development professional with 15 years of experience in the design and management of novel research paths and research teams in both academic and industrial settings. She has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of British Columbia where she specialized in host-pathogen interactions, and completed her post-doctoral training at the BC CDC on Chlamydial rational vaccine design. Michelle spent nine years at Response Biomedical Corp. where she was responsible for the design and development of point of care diagnostic tests for cardiovascular and thromboembolic diseases, and managed clinical studies and regulatory submissions for new RAMP® products. Dr. Zaharik is currently directing the Research and Development team at bioLytical Laboratories, focussing on the development of 60 second diagnostic tests for various infectious diseases including Zika, Syphilis, and Hepatitis C, feeding her passion for translating scientific advances into diagnostics that will improve the quality and access to care for patients worldwide.

Director of Scientific Affairs, bioLytical Laboratories Inc. I oversee the development of new diagnostic tests on our INSTI platform, as well as product and process improvements. I also provide scientific support for our customer facing groups (Customer Service/Technical Support, Sales and Marketing), help design and oversee field studies of our products including global clinical trials, and work on regulatory submissions to get our products to market.

The constant learning and knowing that every new test we make will impact someone’s life. Every new diagnostic test we develop means a learning about fascinating new diseases as well as seeing how we can make a difference to people suffering from these diseases around the world.

The ability to understand both the biology and immunology of a disease and protein biochemistry was essential to this job. You need to be able to understand the disease state to design a good test overall, but the biochemistry is needed when you start troubleshooting your biological raw materials and trying to figure out why things aren’t working the way they should be.

When I got out into the workplace, although I have come across a lot of big egos I have never felt that I was up against a glass ceiling. However, both of my industry jobs have been in companies where the scientific teams were primarily female and ultimately ended up with female Directors, VPs, CEOs and COOs.

One of my current projects, developing a 60 second screening test for Zika infection. To be working on a diagnostic for emerging infectious disease is challenging because things are evolving at such a rapid rate, but it keeps you interested and on your toes. At the end of the day, this test is so urgently needed and so important that it makes it all worth it.

I have always been interested in the practical application of science and knowledge translation; diagnostic test development combined the practical aspects of biochemistry with the direct impact on people’s lives. Point of care test development in particular, by getting testing closer to the patient in real time, makes a huge difference to populations and communities that normally could not access this aspect of clinical care and is even more inspiring.

That women can have whatever job they want to have without ever thinking that their gender is a barrier or that they aren’t taken as seriously because they are female. I intend to actively support this by continuing to hire, support and train the best people I can, and speaking to whoever will listen about the roles we have to play and how we can play them effectively.

Listen to those around you and make sure you hear what everyone has to say, but don’t be a doormat. Speak up when you have something to say – your knowledge and opinion is valuable so don’t second guess yourself into thinking that someone has “already thought of this” – chances are very good that they haven’t.

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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