Dharmica Mistry is a speaker at Wired for Wonder on September 11 and 13 in Melbourne and Sydney respectively.
Dharmica is the co-founder and chief scientist at BCAl Diagnostics where she has been carrying out ground-breaking research into detecting the most common cancer amongst women, Breast Cancer. Here she tells her story to Women Love Tech and shares her passion for her work.
What lead you into the industry you are in now?
It was during my university years where I fell in love with microbiology, before that I had never really known ‘what I wanted to be’. Having found a love for science and research, I took a job with a small start-up looking into the association between breast cancer and scalp hair. Whilst there, my colleague and I developed a theory, based on my own hair, as to the underlying biological mechanism and I carried out pivotal experiments which resulted in a scientific breakthrough and led to the filing of a patent. Encouraged by this breakthrough, I enrolled in a PhD to continue the research however shortly after the company went into administration and I was unable to continue. I was devastated and jobless, but it had woken something in me. I had helped birth this idea, it became precious to me and so began my transformation into a dogmatic, determined entrepreneur.
I had found my reason to get out of bed, my reason to try harder and fight for something I believed in.
My colleague and I could not just “give up” on a piece of science that we felt had value and potential, so we found two investors, who helped us purchase the IP and the four of us founded BCAL Diagnostics in 2010.
BCAL Diagnostics is developing a simple blood test to detect breast cancer earlier and more accurately. The BCAL Dx approach could revolutionise detection of breast cancer as the technology enables accessibility to a routine method of screening for women of all ages and has multiple applications in screening, diagnostics, treatment, and monitoring. Initial studies have demonstrated 90% sensitivity and specificity in the detection of invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common form of invasive breast cancer.
BCAL Dx is focused on finalising the development of this screening test for commercial use, in order to commence clinical trials. Access to an accurate and effective blood test that screens for the presence of breast cancer has the potential to significantly disrupt the current standard of care for breast cancer and give women a greater peace of mind.
What drives you to follow this passion?
Taking an innovative idea out of the laboratory and commercialising it was a whole new world for me an academic. It was a foreign language and culture and I was so overwhelmed, but I am impact driven and there was nothing more fulfilling than making that transition. Overall I really wanted a chance to take this research and bring it to life, to have a go and to make a difference – because that is what science is all about.
Science, technology, mathematics, and engineering are platforms for creating, inventing, changing and revolutionising. Science is why I am here today.
How many other occupations are there that can radically change our world? So many people are always looking for purpose and ways to create change. I feel that I am lucky because I get to do what I love but I also have the opportunity to potentially help millions of women around the world.
Along the way, I have learnt so much as a young woman in biotech and leadership and the bottom line is: don’t let a lack of self-confidence stop you from seizing an opportunity. You deserve it, you should take it and give it your best shot, let failure be your friend. Learn from it, iterate quickly and keep going.
Teaching the next generation
I have made it a mission to break the mould around STEM stereotypes and I want to make geeks chic.
I want to make geeks chic.
I also believe we need to have more visible role models in the STEM space because these are the occupations and disciplines that foster change and impact in the world and have the power to inspire the next generation. When Wired for Wonder asked me to be a part of their event and to speak at the Wired for Wonder Youth Summit, I was thrilled; the experience is immersive, and it brings a diverse network of people together to learn and grow. It is challenging and innovative and is what we need to broaden our minds, learn about new ideas, grow as human beings and encourage the next generation to achieve what they never thought was possible.
You can hear Dharmica Mistry speak at Wired for Wonder on the 11 and 13 September,2018.