The Sophomore Scientist: An Interview with Niyathi Chakrapani
Niyathi Chakrapani is the co-founder and CEO of Amsterdam Fludics.
In college, everyone is comparing themselves to one another. My biggest takeaway was that I shouldn’t do that. Since I was a biology major, I felt like I should be pre-med and I should be doing research just for the sake of doing research. Then I realized I liked philosophy and computer science too and I took those classes because that’s what was enriching to me; I guess I carved my own path. I also had to learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable because I was often in rooms where everyone knew more than I did because I was still learning.
What inspired the inception of Amsterdam-Fluidics?
My co-founders and I discovered a microfluidic device by David Issadore’s lab. The company began once we found this groundbreaking paper. It was a whirlwind from there. We started doing the research and development to figure out a more efficient way to encapsulate drugs so that cancer treatments would only target the harmful cells.
What role do you play as the CEO of Amsterdam-Fluidics?
I’m the liaison between business and science. I communicate the science and technology to people who have no knowledge of the field. I pitch at competitions, raise funds, and manage relationships with anyone who has interest in the company. I’m also helping build the chip that is central to our technology.
Your website mentions that you adopt a bottom-up rather than top-down approach. What does that entail?
In the top-down approach, you have a big vat of drugs and they are being sonicated and heated all at once. It’s really inefficient—it takes 5 days and costs $25 a batch. In the bottom-up approach, instead of having a factory, or a vat of drugs, you insert a stream of drugs. It’s basically a road and a bunch of cars come in and intersect with the materials and at the end of the road, you have an encapsulated drug. The process is much more advanced—instead of 5 days, it takes 12 hours; instead of $25, it costs 50 cents.
How did you prepare to start your own company?
A lot of it came from being very driven from a very young age. I sold jewelry in elementary school. In my sophomore year of high school, I started a writing club; we had a partnership with NPR. A love of creating has always driven me. In Penn, I started a mental health organization called Bridge. We have a wonderful board of eleven members and we’re expanding.
You have published a book of poems and you write for The Huffington Post. What advice do you have for girls who are interested in publication?
All those things started because I reached out to people, most of whom didn’t respond. I was really persistent. I called and emailed a lot of people. I followed up every week. The key is to reach out. The publication industry is about people. Be smart about who you contact. In order to get places, you need people to get you places. Don’t be afraid of emailing people at the top. Also, don’t be discouraged by people rejecting you—rejection is just a part of it.
Contributor: Ananya Bhargava