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The Black Hole

Who am I? The serial entrepreneur


I was recently invited to give a keynote address at the Human Disease Mapping conference at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland  that was fully coordinated by a small group of the college’s PhD students and postdoctoral fellows. The scope was to share my experience and story of my academic career in a period where the global financial and humanitarian crisis is affecting young scientists’ hopes of doing what they love most – science.

Given its length, I have divided the original talk into multiple posts.

To read the previous articles in this series please visit the links below:
An impactful scientific career.



I am an instructor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

I received my PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of British Columbia, Canada, where I worked closely with Canadian Blood Services to improve blood platelet processing and storage. I continued my research as a postdoctoral fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, where I studied platelet production in Joseph Italiano’s group. There I won a K99/R00 grant which prompted my promotion to instructor at Harvard (I would have been forced out of academia due to lack of funding otherwise), and now my research focuses on developing bio-mimetic microfluidic platforms to generate functional platelets and new targeted therapies for thrombocytopenia.

During this time I co-founded Factual Footage Inc., a science consultancy for the film and television industries, with the aim of ensuring scientific authenticity in the arts; Criterion Bioscience, an online resource for biotech investors, where I manage a scientific advisory board and oversee operations of the firm’s scientific review process; and most recently Platelet BioGenesis, a biotech company with the goal of producing the world’s first donor-independent human platelets for human infusion, which I started with my postdoctoral mentor (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Click on Image to Enlarge.
Figure 4: Click on Image to Enlarge.


Throughout this time I have been an active political blogger, writing for University Affairs, a Canadian journal on higher education, under the blog series The Black Hole, which focuses on issues affecting early career scientists in Canada. I maintain this blog with Dr. David Kent, a Canadian on the other side of the pond, at the University of Cambridge. We post weekly, and I strongly invite you to visit this site often if you are interested in honest discussions on academic career advancement, higher education, and science policy issues. While Dave and I have very different approaches to career development, both of us are biomedical research scientists, and our articles comprise Canadian, American and European perspectives.

So getting back to the question at hand – I am you. We share an education, training, and early career trajectory, and most likely interests as well. I am also a serial entrepreneur, and my experience in this space, as well as my exposure to science policy as it affects early career scientists are worth recounting.

Lastly, I am a firm believer in social enterprise and ascribe passionately to the idea that if our goal is to improve human health and knowledge through discovery, we do so better together, by elevating one another, than by holding each other back.

This is why I am here.


 I’ve broken up my thesis into three major themes and I’ll try to stick to them.

  1. Creating options.
  2. Defining roles.
  3. The public scientist.

I want this to be an interactive discussion. I encourage you to post your questions and comments along the way, and that you continue this discussion throughout your long and prosperous careers. We are all better by elevating one another.

Jonathan Thon
Dr. Thon is the Founder and CEO of STRM.BIO. Before STRM.BIO Dr. Thon Founded Platelet BioGenesis where he served as CEO and Chief Scientific Officer. Before Platelet BioGenesis Dr. Thon was an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School.
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