I am BOLD because…
I am revolutionizing the design of protein therapeutics.
Please provide a brief overview of your professional background and share a couple of significant milestones or projects you've been involved in?
I was born and raised in Stuttgart, Germany, and left right after finishing high school. I moved to the Netherlands for my undergraduate studies, where I studied
“Liberal Arts and Science” in the Netherlands and mainly focused on theoretical physics and quantum computation. Post graduation, I found myself drawn to South Africa where I spent six months engrossed in research about quantum machine learning. It was a thrilling time of exploration — we were delving into how artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms could merge with the revolutionary computer paradigm of quantum computing. Looking back, I can say with confidence that deciding to go there was one of the best choices I've ever made. It was the launchpad for my career. After my research got published, I got invited to several conferences, ended up meeting the right people and one of them (Dr. Peter Wittek) invited me to start a company as part of an incubator project in Canada. It is called Creative Destruction Lab and it’s based in Toronto. That is where I started working on ProteinQure almost six years ago. Since then, it's been a rollercoaster ride with triumphs piling up one after the other. In the midst of all this, I also managed to complete my Master's degree in Theoretical Physics, further specializing in quantum machine learning.
What has been the most valuable lesson life has taught you thus far?
For a time, I worked 80 hour weeks and it was great. But when the pandemic hit, it showed me how easily the things you like to do in your free time can be taken away. That was a waking up call. A career is important, but I am now trying to work a healthy amount of hours. When I recharge, I end up being more productive. I am happier overall, and I wouldn’t want to go back to that previous lifestyle.
How does being a part of the BOLD community influence you and your work?
At the BOLD events, I meet a lot of successful people from so many different areas. Often, when I go to conferences it is either a lot of scientists or a lot of business folk. I don’t normally get exposed to people who work in VR, wanna colonize Venus, build inflatable spaceships or write science fiction novels. The range of topics that people cover in the BOLD community is so broad, and the conversations are always inspiring.
What strategies do you implement to cultivate a culture of innovation within your organization?
We are very interdisciplinary. Our team consists of machine learning scientists, biologists, computational biologists, software engineers, and business people and that means that we are constantly working at the intersection of these areas, which makes it very interesting — makes room for innovation. Everyone brings something unique to the table.
Is there a particular belief or philosophy that guides your approach to life and work?
Sharing is caring!
What do you think people should learn from each other?
I am a big fan of festivals like Burning Man. There is something about the way people connect there and teach one another. Yes, there is music and dance, but what I love is the way people show each other that everyone deserves respect and love. There is something special about the way people connect at festivals, how they share skills, make gifts, and just make each other happy. It, in turn, has inspired me to work on open source software and education and has resulted in me co-founding the Quantum Open Source Foundation (QOSF). At QOSF, we’re providing free and accessible learning resources for everyone and are actively helping to build an open software ecosystem for quantum computing.
What qualities do you believe will be crucial for success in the future of work?
I personally believe that in-office work will become more important again after the current shift to remote work. I guess being in office with a sort of hybrid is probably going to be the future; because with remote work, human connection is missing. Work is a big social component, there is a lot of socializing involved and I think people will crave that more and more. In the scientific field, most work is interdisciplinary — that makes it difficult to go fully remote. Sometimes you just need to turn around to your colleague and ask them something.
What is a BOLD decision you made in your career and why?
During our Seed fundraiser, we had to make several difficult and BOLD decisions related to term sheets. The difficulty is that term sheets from different investors typically don’t arrive at the same time and they usually have a 10-14 day expiry date. This means you often have to decide to refuse or accept a term sheet in isolation, which can be really stressful and difficult. In retrospect, we definitely made the right BOLD decision, but we’re soon starting our Series A fundraiser and are restarting the emotional rollercoaster!
Can you explain your innovation and why it matters?
At ProteinQure, we’ve built ProteinStudio, a software platform for computational protein drug discovery. Protein therapeutics represent one of the best options for treating several currently undruggable diseases, but current drug discovery workflows are limited to the chemical space they can explore. ProteinStudio allows us to combine large-scale molecular simulations, protein folding, and machine learning to do the structure-based design of drugs. These physics-based methods make us less dependent on large data sets. We partner with pharma to deliver novel, experimentally validated drugs, and it’s important to note that we don’t sell software. We focus on designing novel biologics optimized to cure obesity, different kinds of cancer, and several autoimmune diseases.
How did you get involved in this?
Six years ago, I moved from Germany to Canada to participate in the Creative Destruction Lab incubator program. There I co-founded ProteinQure together with my co-founders Tomas, Chris, and Lucas, and we've been growing the team and company ever since.
How can others contribute to this effort?
Check out the open job positions on our website — apply and join the team. If you want to help in other ways, feel free to shoot me an email! Also please reach out if you’re interested in quantum open source software development since I’m always looking for help with my NGO — the Quantum Open Source Foundation (QOSF).