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"Life doesn't start and end in a pipette. You have to change your perspective and anticipate new needs."

Oskar Marín (Biology + Biochemistry 09 and PhD 15) combines degree program research and entrepreneurship while doing a postdoc in Leuven.

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Oskar Marín
PHOTO: Courtesy
11/05/17 16:33 Laura Juampérez

Are entrepreneurs born or made? What is so special about Silicon Valley that cannot be replicated in Spain or Navarra? Oskar Marín explains how in his case all the pieces seem to have fit together to create this pro-entrepreneurship habitat that has allowed him to be trained in science, to do the thesis , to start a business and to get a scholarship Marie Curie for a postdoc at KU Leuven (Belgium).

- How do you consider that the training on the Degree "fueled" your desire for entrepreneurship?
After the licentiate degree, I did the thesis at the CIMA. There I was in contact with students and I saw that the organization professor was adapting to the Bologna plan, where student is an active part of the classes. That is the way forward.

In my case, I received my first notions about how a business works in the Diploma of management of Science Companies, given by the School of Sciences thanks to Career Services. In my opinion, just as science careers include statistics or experimental design , they should add some knowledge about the world of business and show students that there is an alternative to being a salaried employee, which is entrepreneurship.

- How did your project, Petkis, come about and how do you value CEIN's support?
It was a bar conversation at cafeteria with my partner and friend Igor Larequi. Igor has a dog that had intolerances to some feeds. He came up with the idea of looking for alternatives and found per diem expenses BARF (Biologically Appropiated Raw Food), which is basically based on feeding pets raw meat, meaty bones and a minority percentage of vegetables or fruit. The dog's health and vitality improved significantly.

At the same time, in the Facebook groups on topic users had many questions about their pets' diets, how to find quality meat at the right price, etc. Igor contacted our friend and partner Román Unzu -who is dedicated to the distribution of meat products- and he told us what surpluses he had in his business so that we could convert the meat industry's discards into a by-product for pets, with guaranteed quality and at a lower price than meat for humans.

From there came the idea of an online store for frozen raw meat. In this last phase we needed to create a website, andÓscar García, also a programmer, friend and partnerjoined project .

- How do you value CEIN's support?
At that time we already had all the pieces of project, but we needed to give it solidity. In the Diploma of management of Science Companies I had known what CEIN was and I had subscribed to its online magazine. Through it we found the Iníciate contest and last December we presented ourselves.

Although our idea was not the winner, the good feedback we received from SODENA and CEIN helped us to improve the original idea and transform it into Petkis 2.0. At the CEIN business accelerator they allowed us to continue learning and told us about the Impulsa Emprendedor Program. We presented ourselves with the improved idea and, this time, we were selected by Caja Rural, which became sponsor and awarded us with 8,000 €. In fact, without the support of CEIN, I think we would not have made it past that bar conversation at cafeteria...

- Should there be much more entrepreneurship in science?
Of course there should. Life does not begin and end with a pipette. We need to change the perspective and see what needs will be generated in the coming years.

Right now, a huge amount of data is being generated at data, both biological and non-biological. The financial sector is already using big data to predict how markets will behave and thus make investment more than just intuition. These financial analysis tools could be adapted to programs of study biological.

In fact, in the immediate future, research centers -both basic and clinical- will routinely have data analysis professionals in their teams. One example is the improvement and lower cost of massive sequencing, which will be routinely applied in clinical diagnostics, for which tools and people will be required to process all of these data, from which new business opportunities will also arise.

- You are doing your postdoc in Belgium, what are your mid-term plans deadline and how do you plan to continue with Petkis' project ?
In the middle deadline my idea is to continue with the postdoc experience and enjoy learning at Dr. Marine's laboratory at the Center of Cancer Biology at KU Leuven. Thanks to the scholarship FWO-Marie Curie I have three years of employment and a guaranteed salary ahead of me. Clearly, my priority issue one is the research degree program . But I love challenges and Petkis is one of them.

Regarding the second question, at the moment we are in the idea-product phase and we have just started to test how the market accepts us. For the consolidation phase of the product and the Petkis brand, we need new positioning tools on the Internet and social networks. In this area we will be helped by Alberto Larripa, expert in the subject and worker in attendance computer science in the University of Navarra. For the moment, Petkis is still a hobby, although after the recognition and support of Caja Rural we intend to give it the necessary impulse and that some of the partners are workers.

In my case, from Belgium I offer advice and information on what subject of products related to the per diem expenses BARF are demanded, since this subject of animal feed is much more widespread in Central Europe than in the Mediterranean countries. In this way we develop new products that differentiate and consolidate us in the Spanish market and also allow us to enter the European market.

- With the experience you are having at international level, how do you value the training received in Science?
During my doctoral thesis I have had a privileged and exceptional status compared to science in Spain. I had the challenge to start from scratch with my thesis supervisor, Maite Huarte, at the research center Médica Aplicada (CIMA) at the University of Navarra. There I was able to do first level science, as Dr. Huarte had a scholarship ERC starting grant, awarded by the European Union to very competitive projects.

With funding and good guidance from Dr. Huarte, I was able to publish in high impact journals. And now, thanks also to the curriculum of Dr. Marine from KU Leuven, I have received a Marie Curie postdocscholarship , which allows me to do 3 years of research in a first level international cancer genomics laboratory .