Mackenzie Parmenter
Associate Scientist

Originally Published in May 2024

Exploring an Interest in Translational Science

Mackenzie joined one of Factor Bioscience’s spinoffs, Novellus Therapeutics, as a Research Associate after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Tufts University. She quickly realized that her passion for research was focused on translating scientific discoveries into technologies that can be used to improve peoples’ lives.

“I discovered that I really enjoyed working with human cells, and being part of Factor allowed me to work on creating next-generation cell therapies. I find that part of the job very rewarding,” she said. Mackenzie began researching the development of novel mRNA constructs encoding gene-editing proteins and protocols for differentiating pluripotent stem cells into cytotoxic lymphocytes for applications in the treatment of cancer. Her work was exceptionally fruitful, and she presented her results at the 2021 annual meeting of the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy.

Rising to Meet a Complex Challenge

In early 2021, Factor was approached by a company interested in developing both a gene-edited pluripotent stem cell line and a process for differentiating the cells into cancer-killing lymphocytes. To support this project, Factor would be required to rapidly design and test novel gene-editing constructs, use these constructs to develop and characterize the gene-edited cell line, and develop, from scratch, a scalable process to differentiate the cells into well-defined functional lymphocyte populations.

This project was easily the most complex that Factor had ever undertaken, and required not only knowledge of genetics, immunology, and stem cell biology, but also great skill in the application of this knowledge to the molecular and cell biology processes required to generate and test the resulting cells. The experience that Mackenzie had gained in her first year at Factor made her an excellent fit for the project team, and she was selected to lead the development of the gene-edited pluripotent stem cell line and the differentiation and characterization of the resulting lymphocytes. Mackenzie’s work on this project resulted in a multimillion-dollar contract for the development of novel treatments for hematologic and solid malignancies, and she presented her results at the ASGCT annual meeting in 2022.

“Mackenzie has demonstrated the highest level of skill in challenging areas of molecular and cell biology, and she has brought immense value to our company and has advanced the field of cell engineering,” said Dr. Matt Angel, Co-Founder and CEO of Factor. “She is a very talented scientist, but more than that, she has the tenacity and resilience needed to design and carry out complex experiments that often require weeks and sometimes months before yielding a result.”

As a result of her achievements, and in recognition of her demonstrated ability to carry out independent research, Mackenzie was promoted to Associate Scientist.

Mackenzie credits Dr. Angel for recognizing her motivation and allowing her to help drive company innovation in cancer-fighting therapy research. She noted, “Dr. Angel always likes people to have a plan. He’s always asking, ‘What’s the next step?’ I think everything at Factor is driven by what you want to do.”

Launching a Career in Science

Mackenzie’s work with pluripotent stem cells and directed differentiation has helped her develop questions that she hopes to study during her graduate research, including how self-renewing hematopoietic stem cells behave in vitro and, more broadly, how cell fate is determined in certain lineages. “This has been an incredible opportunity for me. I’ve been able to grow into myself as a scientist. I’m so glad to have gotten the practical experience at Factor that has helped me solidify my future.”

Last fall, Mackenzie left Factor to pursue her Ph.D. in the Developmental and Stem Cell Biology program at Duke University.