Summer Intern Evan Frey ’19 Advances Biotechnology at Nortis in Seattle, WA

This summer I had the opportunity to intern at Nortis, a startup biotech company that has developed a method of growing human tissues in vitro. The company is centered around the production, sale and testing of its innovative and unique technology – a credit card sized, microfluidic chip which can be used to grow different types of human tissue for drug testing and disease observation. Chip applications range from cancer to Alzheimer’s. Additionally, these chips have the potential to expedite the overall timeline for new drug approval and integration into clinical environments. Excitingly, it was recently announced that Nortis chips will be sent to the International Space Station early next year to research the impact of space on kidney health. While this proprietary technology represents a promising and potentially lucrative business model, the company still relies heavily on grants and outside investors. Consequently, Nortis operates as efficiently as possible.

Due to the fact that there are under twenty people working at Nortis and the company recently restructured to cut costs, my internship has allowed me to undertake projects in most if not all operating areas, from production to marketing, and gain a comprehensive view of how a business functions. I’ve found this valuable as it has given me a perspective on how larger companies with multiple departments and more resources operate. Because of the nature of the company, I am able to involve myself in every aspect of the development process.

Nortis builds all its chips on site and therefore must continually order and stock the necessary parts and equipment to produce chips at full capacity. I am heavily involved in stocking and making payments for different production parts. This may sound trivial but it is actually quite complicated as the company orders materials from nearly a hundred different companies and each order invoice must be meticulously recorded in QuickBooks (the accounting software we use). I find it exciting to pay for materials and afterwards observe and help in the assembly, production, testing and packaging processes that follow and then finally process the payment from our customers. I have a good understanding of how resources and money flow within a company to make orders happen.

One of the things that Nortis needs is an increased level of industry visibility – that is, increasing awareness in organizations and companies that might want to utilize Nortis’ technology. Given that Nortis is so small, I wrote profiles for all of the senior members of the company with the goal of increasing transparency for the company. Additionally, one of my most recent projects has been developing a job description and screening applicants for a new position within the company. I was amazed at how many applicants there were even after one day. It has been eye-opening to observe the hiring process from the other side and has given me insight into how companies review job applications. After ranking and assembling a portfolio of job applicants, I will present them to management for review! My experience thus far has been enlightening and I am looking forward to learning more and helping the company become as successful as they hope it to be.

Experiences like Evan’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff

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