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Young scientist hunts cancer 'culprits' at HCC

December 18, 2008|By ARNOLD PLATOU
(Page 2 of 2)

But "when the bad guys equip themselves with something that the good guys can't adapt to, or they release chemicals that make the good guys nonfunctional, they can't fight back anymore."

Even as she works, Chandok is aware that her work continues only because of the generosity of friends and family, including her husband who works in engineering sciences for a federal agency.

Chandok pays HCC's innovation center about $850 a month for use of the lab. Some months, the expense about doubles after she pays for supplies, use of specialized equipment elsewhere and the expense of commuting.

Seeking funds

Financial difficulty is common for such young businesses, Marschner said.

"We know when it comes to basic science, more often than not there is no revenue right away," he said. "So what we have to look at is whether or not the person has the ability to get through the first period" of starting a business.

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As part of his job, Marschner plans to help Chandok find other financial support soon.

For example, he said, they might apply for funding through the Maryland Technology Development Corp., a state economic development agency that would tie Chandok's research to the National Cancer Institute at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md.

And, Marschner said, he could help Chandok attract "angel investments" - usually $100,000 or more from people who'd want to encourage her work and, perhaps, earn a big return in the future.

Either way of financing can be a tough sell, he said.

"You have to convince a third party that your idea has merit and that it has potential - with no scientific history to back it up," he said.

"This is almost pure R&D (research and development), but the payoff can be so huge for an early-stage investor. If the expected rate of return is high enough, based on the potential market, then even the highest financial risk has some viability."

Chandok understands the difficulty.

"I know it's high-risk," she said. Potential investors might have "a lot of skepticism about that concept and the way you want to approach it."

Nonetheless, she is hopeful about her work.

"I strongly believe that I can do it. ... That means I can develop a sensor to detect a sort of presymptomatic breast cancer detection. The concept, the science, the initial results are encouraging."

She said she is thankful to Washington County for the opportunity it is providing her.

"Providing the facilities and financial support, the county - especially Hagerstown Community College - has acted as a first stepping stone to reach a high goal," Chandok said.

If she is able to secure funding from other sources, she said, she envisions a "long-term collaboration with HCC." Its biotech students could do projects at her company and, she said, she might hire some eventually as well.

"I hope I can repay the county with my success," she said.

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