Chat with us: rendez-vous with Dr. Margaret Magdesian, CEO and founder of ANANDA Devices [Event Recap]

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Chat With Us

AUTHORS: Anu Nair, Hermine Counil, Léa Lescouzères, Maritza Jaramillo

In November 2023, the SCWIST-Quebec HUB held its first hybrid event as part of their wildly successful Chat With Us series.

During the event, Dr. Margaret Magdesian shared the story of her journey from academia to the helm of ANANDA Devices. This biotech company produces models of human neurons and innervated tissues on a chip, which allows pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industries to test medications, agrochemicals and cosmetics directly on human tissues; an alternative to animal testing.

From academia to entrepreneurship

From an early age, Margaret had dreamed of becoming a scientist to help find cures for neurological diseases and alleviate medical burdens for patients and their families. Following her PhD and tenure as a Professor in Brazil, she moved to Canada and began working at the Montreal Neurological Institute. There, she studied neuronal networks in the historical petri dish model. While her main focus was on standardizing this design, she also worked with her collaborators to create a microdevice that replicated human neuronal networks on a chip. This new design enabled faster, more reproducible and more cost-effective drug development, all while minimizing animal testing. Margaret’s journey into entrepreneurship was starting. 

Championing EDI in the Workplace

As both CEO and advocate, Margaret champions equity, inclusion, and safety in the workplace. During her talk, she candidly addressed the challenges faced by women and gender-diverse individuals in securing funding and establishing businesses within male-dominated industries. She faced sexist comments and difficulties finding investors in an industry where only 20 percent of CEOs are women. However, Margaret’s resilience and dedication paid off, and today, ANANDA Devices is a certified Women-Owned SME that prioritizes gender equality in health research and contributes positively to environmental sustainability by reducing reliance on animal testing. Margaret’s hard work with ANANDA Devices has been recognized through numerous prestigious awards, including the Cartier Women’s Initiative, SheEO and District3.

Looking Forward

Margaret’s inspiring speech empowered the audience to confront obstacles and pursue their goals, no matter the barriers. She shared examples of how to make the most out of any challenges that arose and emphasized that communication, persistence, and resilience are the keys to achieving your goals.

She also touched on how following her heart and working towards her passion helped her maintain an unwavering dedication to the work she does. However, she makes sure to emphasize that following your heart does not guarantee an easy path. There will be rejections, and to be successful as an entrepreneur, you need to learn how to turn setbacks into opportunities for growth.

Today, thanks to Maragaret’s determination, ANANDA’s technology is being used for a large panel of diseases, from spinal cord injury to Alzheimer’s disease, and her unwavering commitment to advancing scientific innovation serves as a beacon for all future inventors and innovators.

Attendees at the Chat With Us event hosted by SCWIST-Quebec.

SCWIST-Quebec extends heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Magdesian for her invaluable insights and to all contributors who facilitated this event, including the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique for graciously hosting us at their Laval campus and providing exceptional technical support.

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