Rarely you can meet a scientist who is also an entrepreneur at the same time. But it might surprise you that our fellow Filipino, a woman, is not just a scientist but also a serial entrepreneur. 

Most scientists know that the road from lab bench to the marketplace is a difficult journey. Thus, only few would dare to take that road. 

For Dr. Cynthia Goh, a DOST-PCHRD Balik Scientist Program Awardee, knowledge translation is a very important process in research. She firmly believes knowledge not translated into something beneficial for the society is useless.

At a young age, Dr. Goh found her passion for science through a chemistry book. She became interested in understanding how atoms and molecules work together - which eventually led her to the path of becoming a scientist. Dr. Goh holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of the Philippines and a Ph.D. from the University of California. She has also conducted postdoctoral research at Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley. 

In 2012, Dr. Goh established the Impact Centre, an independent institute at the University of Toronto where academics and industry partners work together to accelerate the development of emerging products and services that will benefit society. This, according to her, is rooted from her passion for bringing technology to the low resource communities of the world. 

Four years after, Dr. Go became the academic director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, for her extensive knowledge, experience, and passion to ensure innovation and entrepreneurship become integrated into the University’s academic programs. 

Dr. Goh believes that a fundamental understanding of nature can lead to enormous benefits only if scientists take part in the process of knowledge translation.

In the past 15 years, she has launched seven companies in Toronto, one of which is Axela Inc., the leading Canadian life science company which provides a simple and effective approach to understanding protein-protein interactions. In 2006, her group has spun out ViveTM Nano, a Toronto-based firm that develops nanoparticle-based materials for a variety of fields such as catalysis and agriculture.

Ultimately, Dr. Goh’s current work as a Chemistry professor, entrepreneur, and academic director at the University of Toronto made her realize that she had to go back to the Philippines to help her fellow kababayans. The vehicle to implement this goal is the Balik Scientist Program (BSP) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and she is working on health products, her BSP stint was carried under the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD).

“As a PCHRD Balik Scientist I had the opportunity to connect with many students and faculty, as well as with the community, to learn about their concerns and issues helping me design my next project on community-based innovation,” she said.

During her engagement under BSP, she was able to share her expertise on Medical Diagnostics, Physical Chemistry, Nanotechnology, Functional Foods, and Technopreneurship. This year, she will be coming back to the Philippines to collaborate with the UP-Manila Technology Transfer and Business Development Office (UPM-TTBDO) in their application for the establishment of the Philippines’ first health-focused technology business incubator.

As we celebrate the National Women’s Month this year, Dr. Goh’s passion and achievement in science remind us that we can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, and improve situations. We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors, and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society.

Written by: Catherine Dimailig
Contributor: CJ Gonzales

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