ESTEEM graduate Ashley Kalinauskas discusses how her thesis project led to the founding of Torigen Pharmaceuticals, a successful business focused on developing personalized cancer vaccines for animals, highlighting the valuable business principles and technology validation skills gained through the ESTEEM program at Notre Dame.
In the realm where science meets entrepreneurship, Ashley Kalinauskas '13 M.S. shines as a prime example of the remarkable synergy that can emerge when these two worlds collide. As the founder and CEO of Torigen Pharmaceuticals, a pioneering company specializing in personalized cancer vaccines for pets, Ashley has achieved success and transformed the veterinary market. Ashley shares her journey and explores how her experience at the University of Notre Dame's Master's Program in Entrepreneurship, Technology, & Innovation (ESTEEM) paved the way for her entrepreneurial success.
Upon completing her graduate studies at ESTEEM in 2013, Ashley embarked on a remarkable journey that turned her graduate research capstone project into a thriving business. While at the University of Notre Dame, she collaborated closely with a university professor, Dr. Mark Suckow, who developed a unique approach to cancer treatment. Although the initial technology targeted human applications, Ashley's passion for animals and Mark’s guidance led her to redirect her focus toward our furry companions. Over the years, Torigen Pharmaceuticals has blossomed, offering life-changing treatments for thousands of dogs, cats, and horses grappling with cancer diagnoses.
The process begins at a veterinary hospital, where the tumor is surgically removed. Next, the tumor sample finds its way to Torigen's state-of-the-art laboratory, where a personalized vaccine tailored to the specific tumor of each pet is meticulously crafted. This vaccine acts as a catalyst, empowering the animal's immune system to combat cancer and significantly contributing to their recovery.
Ashley's decision to enroll in the ESTEEM graduate program was driven by her unwavering passion for science and business. Given her substantial scientific background, the program emerged as the perfect conduit to align her ambitions with a strong foundation in entrepreneurship and innovation, which is essential for success in her chosen industry.
“ESTEEM gives you the foundational building blocks of setting yourself and your business up for success. Whether or not you decide to go into entrepreneurship, there is so much in the business world where you have to understand accounting principles. You need to know about financial forecasting, modeling, and being able to do a successful customer interview,” explained Ashley, reflecting on the skills she acquired at Notre Dame leading to her entrepreneurial success. “Taking all of that background and being able to actually put it towards having an effect on that company that you're working for or working on is absolutely immense, and that's some of the things that ESTEEM will teach you.”
ESTEEM's unique environment enabled Ashley to take a complex scientific challenge and make it accessible to a broader audience. It nurtured her scientific background while simultaneously fostering her business acumen. This distinctive combination molded her into a trailblazer in the animal health industry, equipping her with the expertise and skills necessary to lead a company that has raised over $16 million.
What sets ESTEEM apart from other graduate programs? According to Ashley, ESTEEM is not solely about entrepreneurship; it's about comprehending intrapreneurship within larger organizations. The curriculum is meticulously designed to instill vital business principles, technology validation, successful customer interview techniques, financial forecasting, and more.
“By joining ESTEEM, a potential candidate will be exposed to business principles, technology, and how to validate the technology. ESTEEM gives you the skills needed to build a successful pitch deck, understand what types of investment exist, understand how to solve problems that truly matter within the world,” explained Ashely. “ESTEEM prepares you to work for both the smallest companies, where you're the only employee and some of the biggest companies in the world. We've had students graduate that have built their own thing, like me or have gone on to work at some amazing companies like Google, Microsoft, SpaceX, and the list continues.”
As a proud alumna, Ashley wholeheartedly recommends the ESTEEM program to individuals who share her passion for STEM and seek to comprehend the business side of STEM fields. ESTEEM offers a gateway to grasp intricate business principles and leverage your STEM background for a fulfilling career in the science industry.
To join us on the journey of innovation and entrepreneurship, discover more about the ESTEEM program and take the first step toward a rewarding future today.