Dr Sakthi Moorhty

For International Women’s Day 2021, Cell & Systems Biology (CSB) is highlighting the scientists behind the science we publish, and the staff that support them.

Dr Sakthi Moorthy has been a valued member of the Mitchell Laboratory in CSB, and we would like to congratulate her on her new position as Development Scientist at the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM).

Even as a child, Moorthy’s scientific inclinations led her to collect and categorize leaves to better classify the variety of plants near her home in Chennai, India. Her strong intellect also means she covets the challenge of competing to win at chess. Although her parents would have been content to see her happily married, Moorthy impressed them by avidly pursuing science at school and fighting for excellence in all subjects. In high school and university, she pursued a passion for molecular biology.

Moorthy’s strongest motivation was to bring the benefits of research discoveries to patients, so she pursued a Masters and PhD in Biotechnology. Work placements during her studies put her in a position to study vaccine production at industrial facilities. Moorthy says her greatest achievement was successfully competing for prestigious Research Fellowships from India’s ICMR and CSIR to continue her studies of infectious disease treatment.

Moorthy moved to Canada with her 6 month old baby for better research opportunities, and began seeking a suitable position when her child was 2 ½ years old. With no recent experience or knowledge of Canadian research culture, she found it hard to step back in to find a job to prove her worth. Her drive and her skills in molecular biology and cell culture led her to a technician job in Prof Jennifer Mitchell’s laboratory in CSB.

Bringing her customary technical precision, she impressed Mitchell with contributions to a groundbreaking paper using the new CRISPR technology. Intrigued by unsolved puzzles in the paper, she developed a research project to study the genetic factors that drive mouse embryonic stem cells to become neural stem cells. She wrote or contributed to seven publications from the Mitchell laboratory, all while training students and managing lab facilities.

Her strong publications and skills with gene editing and cell culture led to her current position at CCRM. Working with startups to make hypoimmunogenic cell therapies that comply with regulatory requirements puts her at the leading edge of the biotechnology industry. She is impressed to see that women in her facility will spend long hours running the bioreactors, in contrast to the vaccine facilities of her youth, where only men were considered suitable for the physical requirements of keeping the bioreactors running.

With CCRM’s goal of transitioning discoveries from benchside to bedside, Moorthy is fulfilling her wish to bring direct benefits to patients from fundamental discoveries.