The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research is pleased to welcome Irena Ivanovska as a Senior Scientific Director. Irena brings almost 20 years of experience in molecular biology research in both academia and the pharmaceutical industry.
Prior to joining The Mark Foundation, Irena spent eight years as a biopharma developer at Celdara Medical in Lebanon, New Hampshire and Cambridge, Massachusetts. The role allowed her to hone her skills in understanding what it takes to bring new therapeutics to the clinic. According to Irena, scientists excel at doing the science but don’t necessarily realize all the other factors involved in taking their discoveries to the clinic. While at Celdara, she helped researchers understand that their potential new drugs not only had to show promising results but also had to fill an unmet need, have the right properties to enable scale up in production, and be unique enough for a patent. Irena says she looks forward to bringing her expertise in scouting new therapies to The Mark Foundation. “What I am really hoping to do is help scientists think through their research and ask ‘how can we help you take whatever you are making, hop over the divide, and make it more attractive to companies and helpful to patients?’”
Irena moved to New Jersey from Macedonia when she was in high school. She studied bioengineering at Columbia University and earned a PhD in molecular biology from Princeton University. According to Irena, blending her Macedonian roots with the multicultural experiences she gained in the US afforded her a unique perspective to feed her scientific curiosity. At Celdara, she took pride in bringing researchers from across the country, and outside of the large biotech hubs of Boston and Silicon Valley. She looks forward to creating a similarly diverse portfolio of grantees from underrepresented backgrounds and geographic locations in her new role at The Mark Foundation.
In joining The Mark Foundation, Irena is excited to have the opportunity to return to her research roots in cancer biology as well as tap into her experience in academic and early pharmaceutical research focused on cell division and oncogenic targets. She is enthusiastic about the mission of The Mark Foundation in supporting innovative science and cutting-edge approaches in cancer research. “I see the role not just as an opportunity to think about what may be commercialized, but also to enjoy the pure science that may lead to better outcomes for cancer patients,” she says.