Shuli Kulak Investigates Tomorrow’s Therapies Today
Dr. Shuli (Roditi) Kulak’s ’05S, ’12E, ’17SB passion for science was discovered at a young age. “I found that I liked studying biology. As a kid, I’d read biology textbooks and go through the questions for fun,” she said with a laugh.
After spending her freshman year at the University of Maryland, where she met her husband, David ’05YC, ’09E, they both came to New York to attend Yeshiva University. “I had only planned to stay for a semester at Stern College” Kulak said, “but I found that I really loved it there.”
Kulak found a fellow science enthusiast in Dr. Brenda Loewy, clinical associate professor of biology. “I would take any class given by Dr. Loewy. I especially loved her biotechnology course, a small Honors class and one of the best I took at Stern.” The course covered then-advanced technologies like genetic editing and using bacteria to produce protein products for humans. “It was like science fiction, but all of it was real and very exciting.”
After graduating in 2005 with a BA in biology and a minor in business, and subsequently graduating from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 2012, with an MD and distinction in research, Kulak thought long and hard about what to do next. “I wanted to move forward with my career in a meaningful way,” she explained. “For a long time I had been interested in pharma and biotech. The people I saw working in those fields, in a way that was meaningful to me, were all MDs or PhDs, people that had clinical careers, and then segued into industry.”
During her residency at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Kulak was able to make arrangements to simultaneously obtain an MBA at Sy Syms School of Business. She eventually found her niche at Fortress Biotech, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company that, according to their website, is “dedicated to acquiring, developing and commercializing novel pharmaceutical and biotechnology products.”
“All of the amazing things I learned about in Dr. Loewy’s class are now the everyday technologies I work with,” Kulak noted. “But the best part of my job is that I get to interact with scientists who are trailblazers in their fields, people who are looking to change how we think about disease and treating patients. Being at the forefront of that is really exciting.”
“My job is to find promising technologies out of which Fortress can grow new companies. As a result, I have to be sure I have my finger on the pulse of what’s being published, presented and talked about in the medical research world.”
Kulak’s focus is on finding promising therapies for children and patients with rare diseases. “I use my medical background to look for projects that have a meaningful benefit to patients and then I use my business expertise to create a market model and understand which projects are financially feasible.”
Her therapeutic area of focus is wide. One day Kulak could be working on the seemingly mundane, like ear infections, while the next day she is meeting with a patient advocacy group supporting cures for rare genetic diseases, such as Tay-Sachs (a neurological disorder more common in the Ashkenazi population) or rhizomelic chondrodysplasia (a disorder of peroxisomal biogenesis).
While on the path that brought her to Fortress, Shuli also managed to have two children (Elianna, born during medical school, and Liam, born during her first year of residency), sit on the advisory board for the Mass General Hospital rare disease think tank, and do volunteer work for the Yeshiva University Women’s Organization (YUWO).
She connected with YUWO when the organization was raising money in 2011 for the synagogue at Einstein. As president of the synagogue, Kulak acted as the liaison between the school and YUWO. She continued working with the organization after the synagogue project was completed. Her husband is a fertility doctor and works at GENESIS Fertility & Reproductive Medicine in Brooklyn. At the practice the male Dr. Kulak “gets to combine his two passions in life: Jewish values and fertility.” “My husband and I have had a lot of opportunities as a result of our education,” she observed, “and we’re happy to give it back.”