However, a visit to U of T convinced Chris to join his brother in Toronto, where the two have been active in their academic communities ever since. Chris is double majoring in molecular biology and managerial economics, and Michael is currently studying biomedical engineering.
While their fields of study alone are impressive, it is the opportunities that have stemmed from their academic pursuits that make the Pettigrew brothers a pair to watch out for. In his first year at U of T, Chris joined a well-respected lab which focuses on studying genome stability, cancer, and aging and spent over a year working there in an undergraduate position. He soon became an integral part of the lab, with his own independent research being the project used primarily by the lab to obtain grant funds, as well as contributing to other projects including second-authoring a publication which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Aging Cell. He was even invited to enter directly into a Ph.D. program.
Whilst working at the lab, Chris noticed a large differential between the technology used to perform a key experiment – the measure of cellular lifespan, a measurement very relevant to understanding cancer and other aging-related diseases – and the technology used to perform other experiments. Advancing this technology would greatly improve accuracy, increase the amount of data collected, and lower lab operating costs.
He began discussing a possible solution with Michael. Michael has had broad research experiences in a number of areas. In the summer of 2010, he worked at Simon Fraser University studying synthetic biology, where he won a national undergraduate research award for his work on genetically engineering bacteria. The following summer, he was awarded a grant by the National Institutes of Health to spend a semester at the University of Chicago in a world-renowned lab studying brain-computer interfaces and neural decoding. This research has the potential to create prostheses for amputees which can be directly controlled by the brain. He is currently working at U of T in a neural photonics laboratory on epilepsy research. In addition, he had been awarded the two top undergraduate engineering scholarships at U of T in his first and third year. Michael had the technological know-how to get the project off the ground, and soon the brothers were immersed in their designs for a laboratory instrument and technology platform.
In June 2012, they filed a provisional application for a patent. They engaged local advisory services, both in the university and outside of it, took part in local business plan competitions, and built a strong network. They incorporated under the name Cytospan Technologies Corporation. The next month, they began the quest to put together a world-class advisory board as their venture began to garner attention. This board now includes scientists known across the world for their discoveries, former entrepreneurs and investors, directors of multinational corporations, and management consultants. With the support of these advisors, they raised funds and began product development with a prestigious biomedical engineering firm.
Chris and Michael are currently in the midst of their final year at U of T, and are very busy juggling course loads with meetings and their duties as CEO and CTO, respectively. Chris accredits his experience at Mulgrave with shaping his interest in biology, “Ms. Willard got me interested in biology - I was originally enrolled in IB chemistry and physics before switching into biology and had never really considered it as something that interested me until her class”. Chris’ interest in biology quickly turned into a passion, and he was awarded the Mulgrave Biology 11 award in 2008. In terms of managing his academic and business workload, Chris notes that, “IB helped me get used to being busy and juggling lots of unrelated subjects”.
When asked what advice he would share with Mulgrave students about to move on to university and looking to get involved in research, Chris says to “seek your own opportunity. Finding a subject you're actually interested in is important. Make a list of all the professors at your university in that field and send a ton of emails to them all."
Chris and Michael Pettigrew exemplify the Mulgrave School motto as they pursue excellence in education and life. Their success continues as the development of a prototype is well underway, and Cytospan Technologies is in the process of raising significant additional funds from angel investors and venture capitalists in order to secure all start-up capital. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.