Volume 95 Issue 23 | p. 23
Issue Date: June 5, 2017

Career Ladder: Xiaoxi Wei

A fascination with organ transplantation inspired this ‘biohacker’ to cofound her own company
By Taylor C. Hood
Department: Career & Employment
Keywords: career ladder, startups, Xiaoxi Wei, X-Therma, regenerative medicine
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Credit: Courtesy of Xiaoxi Wei
A photo of Wei at ten years old in a red hat and coat holding the family dog.
 
Credit: Courtesy of Xiaoxi Wei

1985
Encouragement from family

 

Growing up in China with a petrochemical engineer and businessperson father and a physician mother, Xiaoxi Wei was encouraged to pursue scientific activities. “My father would often let me take things apart and analyze how things worked, and my mother would stay by my bed telling me stories from the children’s encyclopedia when I was sick. I was fascinated by science.”

1993
Chasing after a scientific theory

 

Wei became interested in cellular survival and transplant technology in elementary school after her grandfather died due to cirrhosis. She learned how fish are able to survive at below-freezing temperatures and that some organisms, such as frogs, can be completely frozen and awakened later. “My father encouraged me to be the ‘biohacker’ who can figure out how to freeze biological tissue for someone in need of a transplant, and I wanted to try it.”

2003
Speed bump on the way to college

 

When starting her undergraduate studies, Wei was initially discouraged by her college entry exams. “I was really worried for the test and then performed below my standards. The entrance exam for Chinese students is considered to be the only life-changing event, but my parents encouraged me because it is just the starting point of life’s journey.” Wei went on to finish her bachelor’s degree in biotechnology at Ningbo University in 2007 with highest honors.

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Credit: Courtesy of Xiaoxi Wei
A photo of Wei in her Ph.D. laboratory holding a pipette.
 
Credit: Courtesy of Xiaoxi Wei

2009
Choosing chemistry

 

After working as a business translator for two years, Wei decided to come to the U.S. to continue her education but switched from biotechnology to medicinal chemistry at the University at Buffalo under professor Bing Gong, an expert in supramolecular chemistry. She realized the field of cryobiology was lacking a fundamental chemical understanding, which she views as the reason no one has made a major breakthrough. “I learned that the chemical concentrations needed to preserve organs long-term cause significant damage to an organ’s cells and lead to failure. I needed to study chemistry to figure out how to change that.”

[+]Enlarge
Credit: Courtesy of Xiaoxi Wei
A photo of Wei in a blue pantsuit posing in front of a plant.
 
Credit: Courtesy of Xiaoxi Wei

Today
Starting her own venture

 

Within months of finishing her doctorate in 2014, Wei founded X-Therma, which functions at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry, giving it access to cutting-edge expertise and instrumentation. “I wanted to try on my own to make this big change happen where my designed molecules can truly be used for helping patients.” Wei hopes to benefit millions by revolutionizing cryopreservation. Her company has raised $3.6 million in angel and Small Business Innovation Research funding thus far. At age 31, she considers that a success.


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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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Comments
Alexander (Sat Jun 10 22:48:27 EDT 2017)
Same dream my space lacks technology Hope i catch up soon Best wishes
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