Meet the Team: Dr. Kathrin Gassei

Kathrin Gassei, MSc, PhD, is the Senior Program Manager at the Center for Commercial Applications of Healthcare Data (CCA) and Executive Director at sciVelo, Innovation Institute, University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Gassei is responsible for the project portfolio at the CCA, the Pitt arm of the Alliance, where she works closely with the CCA leadership to identify digital health projects, and then to connect those projects with late-stage commercial translation resources at the University. Dr. Gassei also works closely with the CCA’s partners at UPMC Enterprises, the Pitt Innovation Institute, and the Center for Machine Learning and Health (CMLH) at CMU to advance current and future PHDA funded projects.

Kathrin Gassei bio photoWhat led you to the PHDA?

 I first met Don Taylor when I was taking classes at the Center for Medical Innovation to learn about translation and commercialization of basic science inventions. A few years later, Don, Mike Becich, and Andrew Brown were building a team of scientifically trained project managers at Pitt to help vet and select proposals for PHDA funding, and I was excited to get the opportunity to join their team during one of the first PHDA funding cycles at Pitt.

 Where are you originally from?

 I am originally from Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

Why did you move to Pittsburgh? Where did your career begin and what were the most important lessons you learned?

 I came to Pittsburgh when I was an undergrad at the University of Münster to work on a semester-long research project at Pitt’s Cell Biology department. After my initial research stint here, I obtained funding to return to the U.S. and to continue my work at Pitt as a PhD student. I was pretty much on the classic academic career path and joined MWRI as a Postdoc, when I became more interested in clinical translation and commercialization and enrolled in the Medical Innovation Certificate program at the Swanson School of Engineering. The program opened my eyes to the many possibilities Pitt has to offer for researchers interested in commercialization, and for scientists who are interested in a career path outside the laboratory.

 What have been your biggest takeaways from the PHDA?

 The great strength of the Alliance is the collaborative environment between Pitt, UPMC, and CMU. I always try to encourage our project teams to take advantage of the network that the Alliance has to offer, and to make connections outside their own department. I think this is key to achieving the commercial translation goals the teams set for themselves.

Where do you see Pittsburgh in the next 5 – 10 years? Where do you see the PHDA?

 One of the most exciting promises of digital health solutions for me is the potential of personalized diagnostics for all kinds of diseases, from cancer to mental health to cardiology and autoimmune diseases. For this promise to become reality, a trifecta of available data, predictive tools, and clinically actionable endpoints is needed. I think the Alliance is well-positioned to bring these three together in the coming years and to develop solutions that will help patients right here first in Pittsburgh.

What’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

I love baking and my specialty is the Black Forest Cake, a classic from my home country. To work off all those calories, I enjoy rowing on the Allegheny River with my team, ‘Steel Magnolias’, or road biking in the rolling hills of the Laurel Highlands.