Rob’s New Chapter: Moving Down Under and Working with Breakthrough Technology

Aamir Akbarally

Rob Batchelor is no stranger to the world of R&D and medical devices. 30 years after his first role as a research technician at the University of Washington in Seattle, Rob is now a life science industry veteran and a leader in commercial bioassay research and development, with various experiences in the field shaping his expertise. Currently, he is the Distinguished Scientist in Aptamer Development at Nutromics, an opportunity that arose as a result of a bold step – moving to Australia to work with breakthrough technologies that have the potential to revolutionise healthcare.

Passion Meets Purpose: Nutromics' DNA-Based Sensor Technology

Rob's journey to Nutromics was fuelled by a deep-seated passion for making a meaningful impact on human health. Having previously worked at ThermoFisher, where his work aided post-doctorate students and scientists with their lab products and kits, Rob decided to shift his focus to medical devices. He expressed his excitement about joining Nutromics, stating, "I'm really excited about the technology and how it can impact people's lives."

What intrigued Rob about Nutromics was the company's DNA-based sensor technology. To Rob, a platform that allows the continuous, real-time monitoring of targets is something biosensor researchers once thought was not possible. UC Santa Barbara Prof. Kevin Plaxco shifted the thinking on this when he published his work on continuously monitoring drugs inside a living animal model in real-time.

Nutromics’ mission is to integrate this platform into a small patch to help clinicians treat their patients better by leveraging this continuous diagnostic data. “This technology will have a really big impact, and that's how I wanted to be a part of something that could leave a legacy, so to speak, as a scientist. And as an innovator and an entrepreneur, this is something that I could want for my kids and future grandkids that would leave a mark."

Taking a chance: Relocation and Support Systems

The move to a startup, especially one on the other side of the world, can be daunting. However, Rob commends Nutromics and the support provided by the People and Culture team as employees make this move. The company sponsors an Airbnb for the first month, allowing newcomers to explore Melbourne and find their ideal living situation, whether that is considering factors like proximity to work or good schools for those with families.

Moreover, Nutromics fosters a positive working environment through various social gatherings, creating opportunities for team members to bond and form friendships. As the company has grown to over 50 employees, the chances of finding like-minded colleagues, whether from the same home country or with shared interests, have increased.

Rob's move to Australia is not just a career shift; it's a lifestyle change. As an American, he appreciates the healthcare system in Australia, emphasising the importance of Nutromics covering a nominal medical insurance package for international employees. The company's commitment to social impact, coupled with its innovative technology, made the decision to join Nutromics an obvious one for Rob.

From being Nutromics' 7th employee to witnessing the company's growth – taking over two entire floors from operating in a tiny room – Rob thrives on the startup rollercoaster. He envisions Nutromics becoming a major player not just in therapeutic drug monitoring but also in areas like the treatment of sepsis, acute kidney injury, and cardiovascular disease.

Pickleball, Teamwork, and Company Culture

For Rob, culture is a cornerstone of the Nutromics experience. Drawing parallels between his passion for pickleball and the startup life, he emphasises the importance of teamwork in both. Just as a lack of collaboration with your partner can negatively impact outcomes on the pickleball court, an absence of a cohesive team culture can affect the employee experience.

Nutromics co-founders, Peter Vranes and Hitesh Mehta, have played a pivotal role in shaping the company's culture. Rob applauds their commitment to prioritizing culture from the company's inception. He states, "No company's perfect, but I've worked at a number of places, and this is the top. Full stop." This sentiment is attributed not only to the innovative technology but also to the work-life balance Nutromics offers, that includes  hybrid working.

In terms of technology, Rob's fascination with DNA-based sensors dates back over two decades. He firmly believes that Nutromics is set to break new ground, not only because of the development of a medical wearable but specifically because it's a DNA-based sensor. The potential applications, according to Rob, extend far beyond the current focus on therapeutic drug monitoring, opening doors to addressing critical healthcare challenges.

Rob Batchelor's journey to Nutromics represents a convergence of passion, purpose, and a commitment to making a positive impact. As he navigates his new chapter in Australia with his wife, Rob envisions Nutromics as a transformative force in the diagnostics field, a force he believes one day will be akin to the likes of Amazon or Uber. Just as in his approach on the pickleball court, where teamwork is paramount, Rob sees the collaborative spirit at Nutromics as a driving force behind the company's success and its potential to shape the future of diagnostics.