I. Caglar Tanrikulu, Ph.D.
Principal Scientist

Originally Published in May 2024

Making a Connection

Caglar Tanrikulu developed an early interest in chemistry and biology at the Robert College of Istanbul. He received a full scholarship to Ohio Wesleyan University and graduated with a degree in Biochemistry before going on to complete a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the California Institute of Technology in computational enzyme design. As a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Caglar studied collagen-like peptides that could self-assemble into biomaterials. He continued this work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a full-time Research Scientist, developing synthetic-collagen hydrogels.

Caglar first met Factor Bioscience’s Co-Founder and CEO, Dr. Matt Angel at MIT’s 2018 Fall Career Fair. “Factor’s work seemed quite interesting, especially their use of novel gene-editing endonucleases, but I had no gene-editing experience,” said Caglar. “I was open to exploring new research and had some cell-culture experience at the time, but gene-editing definitely wasn’t my strong suit.” The next time the two met was at the 2019 career fair, where Dr. Angel was accompanied by five employees. “I think I talked with everyone,” recalled Caglar, “I was really impressed by their curiosity and enthusiasm.” It was there that Dr. Angel asked for Caglar’s resume.

A few days later, Caglar received an invitation to speak at Factor. “I was looking at my slide deck and couldn’t find anything that seemed relevant for this audience.” Upon asking Dr. Angel for guidance, Caglar was very surprised to hear that they were interested in his current research on biomaterials. “Dr. Angel told me that their primary interest was how I conducted my research. They simply want people who can do exceptional science”. Caglar was not opposed to switching research areas. “Science is science, after all,” he said, “but prioritizing candidates’ intellectual abilities over their technical skills is quite uncommon in industry.”

Taking a Chance on a New Direction

Caglar was offered a position as Senior Scientist at one of Factor’s spinoffs, Novellus Therapeutics, and quickly accepted. “The research was definitely interesting, and after seeing Dr. Angel’s vision, I wanted to give it a try.” That wasn’t the only thing that influenced his decision, however. “It simply felt good to be here. It is important to me to be in a place where people get along and communicate freely. Yes, this definitely makes daily life easier, but it also lets you better focus on the science.”

Caglar worked closely with his colleagues at Novellus, and their hard work and success led to Novellus’ acquisition two years later. “I couldn’t have had a better first step into industry, or found a better match. Dr. Angel is always available to help direct our research efforts, and Dr. Rohde (Dr. Christopher Rohde, Co-Founder and CTO of Factor) is an inspiration—he will come up with novel ideas and turn them into reality at a record pace. Intellectually, you will never be bored here. Factor provides its employees with as much opportunity and responsibility as they can handle. The environment here has helped numerous entry-level employees join excellent graduate programs at world-renowned universities. I know Dr. Angel takes a lot of pride in helping his employees build their careers. That’s just wonderful.”

“Caglar is an excellent researcher who has done exemplary work throughout his career. We are very fortunate to have him as a team member and a mentor to our other employees,” said Dr. Angel.

The Work Environment Makes All the Difference

According to Caglar, one of his favorite things about working at Factor is the open exchange of ideas. He explained that people in meetings will chime in on many specialized topics. No one gets shut down when asking a question, even if it’s outside of their background and experience. “Everyone can tolerate the occasional, incredibly naive question,” he joked, “but that does show you how the team lifts everybody up.” “The most fun part of my work is somebody putting data in front of me and asking, ‘What do you think?’ And being a small company, you can get everybody’s feedback on a new idea really fast, including Dr. Rohde’s and Dr. Angel’s. I love this place for that.”

“I believe that science never operates linearly,” said Caglar. “The world is continuously changing, and we’ll never run out of problems to solve. The finish line will keep moving, but so will technology, and it’s incredible to be part of this journey with Factor.”