Commencement 2008: The future of biomedicine

Nikesh Kotecha


 video Video length: 1:59 min.
  PhD candidate Nikesh Kotecha

Nikesh Kotecha believes biology is "inherently noisy," like a piece of music full of meaningless notes that make it hard to extract a useful tune.

"You can very quickly get lost in all the data," said Kotecha, 29, a PhD graduate in biomedical informatics.

A math and programming whiz, Kotecha has focused his time at Stanford on finding new ways to manage and analyze vast stores of data, with the ultimate goal of helping patients. In his five years here, he's made some major inroads.

Early on at the School of Medicine, he joined the lab of Garry Nolan, PhD, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology. Nolan's group was the first to use flow cytometry to look at protein signaling inside cells, or how proteins relay signals from the outside of the cell to the nucleus. Because cancer is essentially a disruption in the signaling process that lets cell growth run amok, the tool has the potential to identify specific cancers and determine the best treatments for them.

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Kotecha helped establish the first online databank where researchers could share the flow cytometry data. This Stanford "cytobank" now has 150 registered users, with information on more than 2,000 experiments, he said.

He also worked with researchers at UC-San Francisco to develop a new test for diagnosing a rare form of juvenile leukemia. The new assay, now being used in the UCSF lab, produces a result in less than two days, compared to the conventional one that takes three to three to four weeks, he said.

Kotecha said he hopes after graduation to work in industry, continuing to combine his technical skills with his interest in cancer biology.

"I want to find ways to take molecular technologies to the clinic - to make the data useful and digestible and relevant," he said.

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