May 5, 2022

Chalante Thompson – Navrogen Intern with Sights on Medicine

Chalante Thompson – Navrogen Intern with Sights on Medicine

Among the many opportunities Cheyney University offers to its STEM students is the chance to participate in cutting edge research and gain valuable experience as interns with the science and technology companies that have chosen the campus’ Science Center as a base of operations.

Keystone Honors scholarship student Chalante Thompson, who entered Cheyney in the fall of 2019, is one of those interns, gaining experience and new skills in the Navrogen, Inc. lab. Thompson, who is a biology major with a pre-med concentration, said she knew she wanted to have an internship with one of the companies and Navrogen, a biopharmaceutical company, stood out for her.

“I was going through the internship selection process and after looking at Navrogen, a light went on in my head. I knew I wanted them to choose me and they did. I’m really enjoying it,” said Thompson.

She continued, “Navrogen is doing some very important cancer research. One of the things we’re doing is tackling how cancers, specifically lung and breast cancers, develop their own kinds of immunities as a defense to treatments. It’s a real battle. The cancer cells produce proteins that block a patient’s immune system from attacking and killing them and we’re trying to figure out how these cells adapt, is it something on the cellular level. This will be a huge breakthrough if this research is successful.”

Thompson said she plans on becoming a general surgeon and even when she was a child, she knew she wanted to become a physician.

“I felt it was best to approach that goal with a solid foundation in biology,” she said.

Navrogen was founded by Drs. Nicholas Nicolaides and Luigi Grasso after they sold their previous biopharmaceutical company. Navrogen’s researchers seek to discover new cancer treatments and grow operations to meet the company’s full research and development value potential.

“We were very excited about bringing our research to Cheyney’s labs and working with the university’s students,” Nicolaides said. “When we started our prior company one of the things we did was to take on student interns that we trained as we grew and we’re replicating that here at Cheyney.”

Nicolaides explained that they outgrew their previous location and were looking for a new site. He reached out to officials in Chester County and was pointed in the direction of Cheyney.

“I met with the provost and other Cheyney officials and I knew this was going to be a great partnership,” said Nicolaides. “Giving STEM students hands on training and experience is always a plus.”

Navrogen’s founders and employees have years of experience in training undergraduate and graduate level students through business and scientific internship programs. They have been working with the university’s administration to create coursework that can benefit Cheyney students pursuing careers in the biological sciences and pharmaceutical industries.

“Since we came to Cheyney, we’ve worked with five students and all of them have been outstanding,” Nicolaides said. “Chalante is equally outstanding and we’ve been working with her since January. We saw real promise in her. Sometimes you get interns who aren’t exactly sure of what they want to pursue. So far, we’re five-for-five at Cheyney.”

According to Nicolaides, an intern spends three or four weeks working with other researchers before being allowed to pursue their own research. Each internship is 10 hours a week for 12 weeks. When students complete the internship, their work is evaluated by the company accompanied by a report the student prepares to describe their research project.

“They learn fast and become more and more independent as they progress,” said Nicolaides. “I always encourage the interns to remember their passion.”

Chalante’s experience enforces her decision to choose Cheyney for pursing her undergraduate degree.

“My great aunt is a Cheyney alum and when I toured the campus, it felt right,” Thompson said. “I’m not a fan of big schools and Cheyney is a tight knit community. The professors really care about seeing their students succeed. Cheyney’s partnership with Navrogen has given me experience that I probably wouldn’t have received at another school.”