This year's Entrepreneurship Summit, themed “The Conscious Entrepreneur”, took place on Saturday June 3rd 2017 at the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) and offered an eclectic program that was attended by over 100 students, postdocs and professionals from all over Los Angeles. We kicked the day of with opening remarks by BCLA President Yari Fontebasso, followed by Jasson Crockett, who gave an overview of biotech in LA on behalf of the LA Mayor's Office. Sonia Luna, Executive Director of CNSI, then presented all the exciting programs and opportunities for biotech entrepreneurs around UCLA campus, including the CNSI accelerator and the UCLA Innovation Fund. Our keynote speaker Isha Datar, Executive Director of New Harvest, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that funds innovative science in the field of cellular agriculture, gave a fascinating talk, addressing all the concerns, challenges and exciting opportunities that lie ahead in making products such as beef and milk without cows and eggs without hens. Following Isha Datar’s inspirational keynote, the program continued with a panel discussion focused on the benefits and challenges of operating a biotech startup in Los Angeles. The panel featured Alice Jacobs, MD, of Third Rock Ventures, who acted as an insightful moderator and our panelists included: Andrew Bartynski, PhD, Trojan Alumni, CEO & Co-founder of Aescula Tech giving the perspective of a current entrepreneur, Amir Naiberg, LLB, LLM, Associate Vice Chancellor of the UCLA Technology Development Group, who was able to provide insight from an academic licensing point of view, Carlos Gutierrez, MBA, Chief Strategy Officer from the Larta Institute, provided perspective from a non-profit angle and Arye Lipman, founder of BioBuilt, LA's biomanufacturing accelerator.
After the coffee break participants entered the breakout sessions. A total of 14 mentors were invited by our Campus Ambassador, Valentina and Events Associate, Adhirath. The mentors were experts in their respective fields and discussed topics such as immigration law, funding, team building, finding lab space, idea assessment, IP and patenting and more! Following the lunch break, Umesh Ahuja, BCLA's Fundraising Lead, introduced the events gold sponsors, who each presented a short pitch highlighting and promoting their respective companies. Marie Rippen, CEO of Lab Launch, presented the services offered to biotech entrepreneurs in need of wet lab space. Llewellyn Cox, founder of BioBuilt and Lab Launch, presented a pitch for the soon-to-be launched accelerator program for biotechnology startups in the LA area. Tanya Petrossian, Principal at Building Blocks Advisory Group, advocated the services offered to young entrepreneurs by her company. Finally, Dr. Kedar Challakere together with Chef Billie Sutton, presented revolutionary culinary ideas being pursued at Mokshagundam Biotechnologies.
Following last year’s tradition, the Summit program included an Idea Blitz! competition, in which participants pitched their biotech startup idea to investors and biotech professionals for a chance to win prizes totaling $5000. The competition was hosted by BCLA’s President Yari Fontebasso, and by our Social Media Associate, Mary Donhoffner. Five teams each gave a 2-minute pitch in front of the audience and a panel of judges, and presented their ideas during the poster session. First place went to Xcell Unity Co. founder Qijin Xu, who developed novel molecular probes to recognize and tag cancers cells. Qijin was awarded one month of lab space at Lab Launch, Inc. and 8 hours of personal mentoring with Llewellyn Cox of BioBuilt. Two hours of private mentoring went to the second-place Ivan Pushkarsky, a postdoctoral scholar at UCLA, who developed a functional screen for cellular force generation. All of the participants further were invited to a 2-hour workshop on startup formation with Tanya Petrossian of Building Blocks Advisory Group.
The event concluded with closing remarks from Carolina Amador, Vice President of BCLA, who thanked all the speakers, contestants, audience, mentors and sponsors for their support, and the BCLA team for their hard work and commitment to BCLA's mission. Marie Rippen, CEO of Lab Launch, finally emphasized what keynote Isha Datar had mentioned earlier that day, that it’s important to build a community to create and expand a new field, and the importance of combining forces to make biotech in LA thrive. The busy day ended with a mixer in which everyone had a yet another chance to connect and expand their networks. Thanks again to our numerous sponsors and everybody who attended the Summit and made this event possible!