Student Interns in Immunotherapy for Animals

 “I’ve always wanted to be a vet. When I heard that this company had a vaccine to treat cancer in cats and dogs, I wanted to jump on that right away.”

By happy accident, Raymond was talking to a family friend who knew a young woman, Ashley Kalinauskas, who founded Torigen approximately two years ago based on her college senior thesis paper on cancer treatment.  The family friend reached out to the company who was all for developing young talent and tapped Raymond at the end of the summer for the internship. Raymond noted that she was offered to work in either the business and marketing side of the business or the science side. “I really didn’t care as long as I was a part of the team.” Although still in the onset of her internship, Raymond has been collecting data and assisting with the papers that are submitted to the USDA.

Raymond explained that the company, located in University of Connecticut Health Center’s Cell and Genome Sciences Building in Farmington, consists of seven highly dedicated employees. The company does not accept patients, primarily dogs, that have already begun chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Doctors remove part of the animal’s tumor and inject a vaccine around the remaining unhealthy cells which then allows the animal’s own existing tumor cells to fight cancer. Raymond said, “Looking through the photos of the pets with tumors is absolutely heartbreaking. But this medication is improving the dog’s quality of life and a lot of them have achieved full remission.”

As a three-sport athlete in volleyball, diving, and tennis, Raymond admits that it is difficult to balance her school commitments with her internship. Ideally, she attempts to work at Torigen in three to four hours increments. Currently, Raymond pours over spreadsheets at Torigen that plot out the means of various types of cancers by their survival times with the medication. “This internship has been incredible. I’m learning so much more about cancer and biology and about how well I fit into this area. Let’s see where it can take me.”
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