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Behind the Science: A Spotlight on Scimar’s Director of Preclinical Research

Sep 18, 2023

Staff Spotlight

Author: Brina Gervais

Meet Dr. Kawshik Chowdhury

When Dr. Kawshik Chowdhury met Dr. Wayne Lautt — cofounder of Scimar — he was highly influenced by Lautt’s research. He now works at Scimar’s laboratory under Dr. Lautt, advancing the science behind hepatalin: a hormone believed to be the missing link in the development, diagnosis, and treatment of type 2 diabetes.

A headshot of Dr. Kawshik Chowdhury, Scimar's Director of Preclinical Research
Dr. Kawshik Chowdhury, Scimar’s Director of Preclinical Research

For Dr. Chowdhury, his story with Dr. Lautt began with an email. It was 2008 and Dr. Chowdhury was looking to obtain his PhD in Pharmacology, having already completed his Master of Pharmacology and Toxicology in New York and Master of Pharmacy in Bangladesh. He was eyeing universities in Canada, deciding between the University of Manitoba and University of Toronto.

While Dr. Chowdhury jokes that the cost of living in Winnipeg was more attractive, it was really Dr. Lautt’s research on a novel hormone that drew him to Manitoba. A few emails later, Dr. Chowdhury was bound for Dr. Lautt’s lab at the University of Manitoba.


From Studies to Scimar

Four years later, and a few months shy of Dr. Lautt’s retirement, Dr. Chowdhury completed his PhD with a focus on how voluntary exercise affects hepatalin-dependent glucose uptake in the body. He went on to become a registered pharmacist, but kept in touch with Dr. Lautt about his research progress on hepatalin. It was around this time that Scimar was formally incorporated, elevating the seriousness of bringing this novel science to market.

Dr. Chowdhury admits that while he was still enjoying pharmacy, he missed doing research. So, when Dr. Lautt approached him in 2018 about a new funding opportunity that would allow for a Director of Preclinical Research position to open at the company, Dr. Chowdhury jumped at the chance.

The lab worked out a deal to bring Dr. Chowdhury aboard part-time. This allowed him to keep working as a pharmacist part-time — and subsequently maintain his clinical expertise — while getting back to doing frontline research with Dr. Lautt.

At Scimar, Dr. Chowdhury designs experiment protocols, runs routine animal experiments, and writes manuscripts and grant applications.


Preclinical Animal Work in the Lab

For Dr. Chowdhury, he spends most of his time working with animal models.

Animal models are an important part of Scimar’s preclinical research. While animals aren’t humans, they’re physiologically similar enough to give researchers clues about how humans will respond to certain interventions. Animals also allow researchers to control various confounding factors like diet, lifestyle, environment, or genetics — all of which can be challenging to control in humans and can affect research results.

Animal welfare has always been paramount in Scimar’s lab. Not only because animals are living things deserving of respect, but because hepatalin is only present in healthy, stress-free mammals. Good animal welfare in the lab is not only desired: it’s ensured.

Inside Scimar’s lab today, experiments with animal models range from determining how the body responds to insulin and hepatalin, studying how insulin is processed in the liver to synthesize hepatalin after eating a meal, analyzing the dynamics of insulin-to-hepatalin actions in the body, and collecting blood and tissue samples for other biochemical and proteomic studies.

Some techniques required to carry out these tasks are so specific that Scimar needed to develop them, such as the “rapid insulin sensitivity test” (RIST). RIST is a modified version of the conventional insulin sensitivity test that can differentiate between insulin and hepatalin action in the body. It’s also able to accommodate multiple insulin sensitivity tests in a reproducible manner in a single experiment.


Future Focused

This past summer, Dr. Chowdhury added a third title to his workload, as he joined the University of Manitoba as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Here, he delivers lectures on pharmacology, evidence-based treatment guidelines, and current therapeutics. His role allows him the opportunity to talk about discoveries such as hepatalin, apply for grants to move research forward, and reconnect with the university community.

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