Alumni Profile: Science Alumnus Seeks to Unlock Potential Of Immuno-Oncology

Fall Winter 2021 Issue

Ahmed Alkhateeb '07 Ahmed Alkhateeb ’07As an international student from Palestine, Ahmed Alkhateeb ’07 says his undergraduate experience at SU was not without its challenges. He was a top high school student in his home country and received a generous scholarship to study in the United States when, like most international students, he experienced severe culture shock.

“This shock was amplified by several factors,” Alkhateeb says. “In 2003, my home town of Hebron was in the middle of a violent crackdown by the Israeli occupation. I moved from that reality to a reality where many did not know the difference between Palestine and Pakistan, or had uninformed opinions about the IsraeliPalestinian conflict. The Iraq War was also at its peak, which brought with it a multitude of misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims. I had to adapt quickly.”

While overcoming social and cultural challenges, Alkhateeb excelled in the classroom as he pursued biology and biochemistry. Susquehanna’s small class sizes allowed for more personalized attention, and his professors, like Professor of Chemistry Wade Johnson, pushed him professionally. During his senior year, Alkhateeb’s research mentor, Professor of Biology Tammy Tobin, encouraged him to apply for a competitive fellowship, which provided him with support to perform his own research.

“My doctoral research at Penn State started with asking basic questions about cancer metabolism. This line of research ended up generating observations about immune cells in tumors, and my interest in immuno-oncology started there,” Alkhateeb adds.

After finishing his doctorate, Alkhateeb moved to Boston — the global epicenter of the biotechnology industry — for postdoctoral training at Harvard University. He then joined Flagship Pioneering Ventures as an entrepreneurial fellow and worked at a biotech before being named the director of oncology external innovation for Sanofi, where he is responsible for the search and evaluation of emerging technologies to treat and potentially cure cancer.

Alkhateeb states that one of the most important lessons he’s learned throughout his career — and one that he would share with aspiring scientists — is that it was vital not to compromise on what he enjoyed doing.

“For me, my goal has always been to be a scientist. Fundamentally, science has always been about three things: empiricism, skepticism and creativity. In every step I took, I made sure that I was able to embody those qualities and practice them freely. That turned out to be a good compass.”

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