Interview: Emily Fan, Neuroscientist, and entrepreneur

A quote or words of inspiration you live by.

I think depending on what day and what time during the day you catch me at, different things seem to keep me going. But this one is a classic favourite that I think is paraphrasing Theodore Roosevelt:

“Nothing in the world worth having comes easy”

 

Although, since it’s January, reflection this new year has made me particularly fond of remembering to also be content and grateful as well. I think sometimes we forget to just acknowledge the good things as it is easy to want to reach for more and more.

A bio about yourself. Anything goes, it is about you and what you would like to share and say.

 

I immigrated to Canada in 1994. I studied biology during my undergrad and then went on to do a Master’s degree of Neuroscience in Germany. I worked on a few regeneration projects with various neural implants since. Two and a half years ago I switched gears and now I own my own progressive food startup as well as a biotech startup. I think both startups are still at their infancy but I can’t see myself doing anything else right now. They both stem from my passion for health and wellness. I just had to come to the realization that the reason why I went into science was the perceived autonomy. I realized that this desire to pick projects that I want to work on could also be satisfied through entrepreneurship.

www.tubify.ca

https://www.instagram.com/tubify

 

 

 

There are those individuals, whom you meet who have the “it” factor, Emily is one of those people.

When I think of her, I hear melodic chimes.

Charismatic
Humble
Intelligent
Mesmerizing
Engaging
Sweet

An amazing young woman. There is something about her, I’m drawn in. I want to know more. What is it about her that fascinates me? That part of me that wishes to find out who she is to the core, and for you the readers to share in her journey.

Let’s have that conversation, and find out!

Emily, you have been friends with our niece Emily since you were a young child. What is the “best” thing about your friendship?

I am really grateful to have came across and kept such a wonderful human in my life for 25 years! I mean how many people can say that they have a best friend for a quarter century. I think it’s Em’s kindness and generous soul that keeps reminding me and keeping me grounded and appreciative of what is really important in life at the end of the day.

You are a neuroscientist, and co-owner of a food company, Tubify. Quite the combination.

  • Please tell us about your current work as a scientist.
  • Tubify, please elaborate.

I actually quit my job a year ago after working in various labs on regenerative neuroscience and Alzheimer’s. Prior to that I went through sort of a quarter-life crisis around the same time a family member of mine got sick. I found that I couldn’t bear the feeling of leaving Vancouver to pursue a PhD elsewhere in the world. Around that time I came across the startup world in tech and started wondering why this momentum wasn’t reflected in biotechnology. I started searching and came across Ellen Jorgensen and her TED talk about gorilla biology.  I found that there were spaces popping up all around the world that allow people to come play with what used to be limited access for institutions. I realized that the only way to dispel fear of biotech and provide a space for people to learn about science in an hands-on manner was to have a space of our own in Vancouver. As serendipity would have it, some others in the city were thinking the same thing. We founded Open Science Network, Vancouver’s first community bio wet-lab space in East Vancouver at a space called Maker Labs. One amazing workshop that was held there was one on CRISPR-Cas9 technology. People off the street can come and learn how to work with DNA!

When you are in a space like Open Science, you tend to meet interesting people, I met both of my co-founders of both of my startups through this. A laboratory I worked in was doing experiments altering the nutrition of animals before spinal cord injury and after spinal cord injury. They found that healing was significantly more evident in the preinjury conditions, so that opened my eyes to how important the big food industry actually has on impacting our health and ability to heal if we get a disease. It is more important to eat and live in a healthy way before we get sick. Tubify, an organic fruit freezie company, was born from Casey and my interest to create a healthy treat that was convenient but focused on minimally processed and real food. We don’t believe in fad diets and think that in not putting any preservatives and gums and other additives, we can retain the important enzymes, vitamins, and fibers of whole food. We focus both on making food that is nutritious and delicious. We want to bring healthy food options to the mass grocery stores.

My other startup, Extem, is a biotech startup and focuses on wound healing. It’s more science and closer to my studies. We are focusing on specific components in blood to use for wound healing. We are still at prototype and R&D phase though. This one will take a little longer.

I recall your parents are artists. I believe they worked for Royal Doulton. Are you artistically inclined? If so, what are your passions?

My dabble in the arts have always been more technical. I worked on the microscope taking videos and pictures a lot and therefore photography wasn’t a far off hobby. I love traveling and this interest fits perfectly. Although I sometimes felt that I didn’t inherit any of my parent’s artistic talents, I feel like a lot of creative energy is needed in both science and startups. So maybe it takes form in this way.

You are bright and humble. These are traits that are not always seen together. What keeps you grounded?

My friends.

You studied abroad, what advice do you have for those entering University? How was your experience going to school in a foreign country?

If you have the chance to study abroad I highly recommend it. I think gaining a world view is so important in not only the development of yourself but also the development of a connected and tolerant world.

We are a multicultural society. Were you born here? Do you speak a second language?

I was born in Taiwan, immigrated with my parents when I was 6. Mandarin, and still trying to revive my poor French skills from high school since Tubify is in stores nationwide.

Define happiness to you?

Gratitude for all that is good today. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Don’t take anything for granted.

Last time we met, I remember thinking you would be a great candidate as an astronaut. Coincidentally, you mentioned you had applied. This is fascinating. Would you tell us about the process?

Haha 🙂 I did not make it as you can see! But I’m glad I tried and for a few selection rounds felt like the stars were within reach of anyone that dared to dream.

Any final thoughts, words of wisdom you would like to share?

I’m not sure if I’ve lived enough life to be speaking words of wisdom but I just wanted to really thank you for this opportunity. I feel like it has helped me look back on my life these past three years. I feel like sometimes I am so in the middle of it all that I forget to recount and be proud of all the accomplishments that has happened because I only focus on looking forward to the road ahead.

I feel blessed to know you, and that you are part of our extended family. It warms my heart that you refer to me as “aunty”.

Continue being “you”, making a contribution to this world. Inspiring others “to go for it”.

Wishing you continued success in your endeavours as a neuroscientist, and with your company Tubify and start-up. Extem.

 

Aunty Chrissy😉

 

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