As a child growing up in Iran, Alireza Rezania had a fascination with fish and building aquariums. He developed technologies to breed and raise fish and designed their surrounding habitats, all while learning and applying basic principles of biology and engineering. This curiosity for science and engineering followed Alireza from his childhood in Iran, to his high school education in Spain, and ultimately to his undergraduate and graduate training in the U.S. It would take Alireza a few years to find his passion for biomedical engineering, but once he did he would be well on his way to a thriving career in the biopharmaceutical industry.
Alireza is a Senior Scientific Director and Senior Research Fellow with the BetaLogics Venture, a division of Janssen Research & Development, LLC, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. The mission of BetaLogics is to develop a cell therapy product to cure insulin-requiring diabetes. In his position, Alireza leads a team engaged in discovery and product development of a therapy comprised of a cellular component encapsulated in an immune isolation device to treat Type I diabetes. He is the inventor on over 50 issued patents and applications and over 20 peer reviewed publications.
Alireza moved to the U.S. to earn a bachelor’s degree at Grinnell College, a small liberal arts school in Iowa. “They offered good courses in writing and oral communication, which are really paramount for successful careers in academic or industry,” says Alireza. He majored in Physics. But Alireza discovered an interest in bone structure and mechanics and decided to pursue a second and concurrent bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. He then went on to pursue his M.S. at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Ph.D. at Northwestern University, with both degrees in Biomedical Engineering.
After his graduate training, Alireza landed a job as a postdoctoral researcher at Johnson & Johnson within the company’s Consumer Products division. His work focused on exploring different biomaterials to advance wound healing. Although he applied for jobs in academia, Alireza gravitated toward an industry career. “I wanted to make a bigger impact on the health care industry. In academia, translating your research to a tangible product is difficult.”
Today, Alireza focuses on developing transformational cell therapies to treat diabetes at BetaLogics. He works in the area of cell therapy within the larger umbrella of regenerative medicine. Alireza draws from materials science, surface chemistry, and biology in his current work. His goal is to improve the quality of life for people with diabetes and improve patient care.
“I was able to get training in two different fields and marry them to offer concrete solutions to medical problems,” says Alireza about why he finds biomedical engineering to be a rewarding career path. “I am also constantly learning new areas of biomedical engineering and meeting experts in the field.” Lifelong learning is an important aspect of being a biomedical engineer.
Alireza advises undergraduate and graduate students pursuing biomedical engineering to “participate in practical training in an internship or co-op to gain insight about working in industry.” He also suggests finding a great mentor to provide you with guidance and advice for your career path. Lastly, Alireza advises, “Don’t be afraid to experiment and fail. From every failure you will learn a life lesson that you will carry to your next position.”