Episode #7: Samer Yammine’s story


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Samer YammineSamer Yammine has a PhD in Cancer Epigenomics from Karolinska Institutet. He is professionally passionate about design, user experience, innovation and business development and has extensive experience in problem-solving and creative solutions within the biotech sector.

Nowadays, Samer have one foot in academia as a project leader at the Unit for Bioentrepreneurship at Karolinska Institutet with the main task to develop graduate courses for PhD students and the other foot within biotech industry and the startup world as Director, Co-Founder/CTO of Karmagenes.co and Chairman, Co-Founder/CTIO of CelFIT.co

“Get a job that you won’t need an alarm to take you out of the bed in the morning. Utilize your personal assets, what you learned, what you trained for, what you achieved and package them into a tool that will allow you to tackle any upcoming challenges.”

– Dr Samer Yammine, Co-Founder and CTO at Karmagenes.co.

Transcript

Hello everyone and welcome to the PhD Career Stories podcast.

My name is Dr. Samer Yammine and I will walk you through my journey from a PhD student toward co-founder of 2 biotech companies and project manager at the Unit for bioentrepreneurship at Karolisnka Institutet.

During my five years training as a PhD, I have directed all my focus towards learning new business oriented skills. I was actively involved in many business events around the campus either organized by the Unit for Bioentrepreneurship, Innovation Office or the Career Service office. All this, on top of my technical thesis subject, were a clear sign that my next step would surely be outside academia.

By the end of my PhD and just before my defense, I joined the Karolinska Institutet Career Service PhD course that aims at facilitating the placement in a company for a short period of time. Luckily, I managed to be involved in two different companies and worked on two different projects. This is my first advice to you, try to orient yourself from the beginning and fill your tool box with as many extra tools as possible to use them when needed. Also, be sure to choose the best fit to the internship you believe you can be not the other way around.

After my internships, I decided to take a break and spend my days on the sofa and play mobile games. Yes, a three-month break! It was such a nice experience were my only worry was how to achieve the next level in my game. This is my second advice, give your brain a break, let it out of the stress mode. While in this mode, my best friend called me and discussed an idea that we have communicated a while back during our final PhD year in our brainstorming session about how not to be the next postdoc. Clearly, we both agreed that academia was not our playground and we should maybe consider building our first venture.

This is when Karmagenes was born, the DNA based personality test, a biotech company, with five out of the six founders, PhDs wanting to translate their lab work into a product that brings happiness to people lives. The journey wasn’t an easy ride, with mainly two full time hustlers, up to 16h a day, we manage to build a product and secure our first round of investment. My 3rd advice, if you ever decide to make your own venture at least learn the basics of business. The fun part of a startup is that you utilize all your skills, one day you are the analyst the other day you wake up the marketing guy and in the afternoon the scientist trying to solve few technicalities while before heading to bed you end up the manager planning the upcoming 24h.

Building on top of this success and all the hard lessons learned, I still wanted to keep a foot in academia but not behind a bench. Such opportunity did appear and I joined the Unit for Bioentrepreneurship at Karolinska institutet with the aim to infect PhD students with some business enthusiasm. Starting with the obligatory module, introducing entrepreneurship and nowadays, I have several courses that I developed and I teach covering various entrepreneurial topics and basic business tools. My 4th advice, keep networking and build a network that bridge academia and industry, lots of opportunities out there, you simply need to discover them.

Last but not least, I co-founded yet another startup were we added the glorious achievements of the 1st one on top of a new product that deals with fitness and nutrition. Hence, we are the first to link behavior to Fitness and nutritional needs throughout DNA. Endless hours of work, hundreds of e-mails a day, stress, joy, pain, fear and tears… all this and nothing match the euphoria of being your own boss, raising your biological kid as well as two startups. My last advices for today, take risks either you succeed and lead or you fail and teach. Get a job that you won’t need an alarm to take you out of the bed in the morning. Utilize your personal assets, what you learned, what you trained for, what you achieved and package them into tool that will allow you to tackle any upcoming challenges. Finally, be yourself, discover your potential and meet yourself.

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