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BCLA 4th Annual Summit highlights

The month of October saw the fourth annual BCLA summit at CNSI in UCLA, and what a day it was! From fascinating stories of her career progression and invaluable information and advice to the audience from our keynote speaker, Vanessa Belozeroff, to the informative and interactive breakout sessions on a multitude of topics geared towards 'Making it in LA', the summit recorded its highest attendance to date! By far! Another huge accomplishment of the summit was the first STEM K-12 oriented sessions for high school and undergraduate students.

We would like to thank each and every one of you that came to the summit and we hope that you enjoyed the day as much as we did. Thank you also to our many sponsors and CNSI for making the summit a success!

Opening Remarks

The 4th annual BCLA summit opened with remarks from the organizations founders, Stefanie Volland and Katrina Choe, who gave a comprehensive background to the origins, growth and mission of BCLA. Their vision and drive to foster a collaborative environment between academia and biotechnology has brought together hundreds of people around greater Los Angeles to create connections and drive biotechnology forward within our region. The rapid growth of BCLA is testament to the importance this organization plays in helping the core mission of bringing professionals together for a better future. Nothing however spoke better to this mission than the record number of attendees sitting in the audience at 9.30am on a Saturday morning!

Following these opening remarks, It was the turn of Jason Crockett from LA mayor's office. As a man who is passionate about the future and prosperity of the LA region, Jason spoke of why organizations like BCLA are so important to the regions success.

Keynote presentation

Then it was the turn of the keynote speaker, Vanessa Belozeroff. Vanessa gave a detailed account of her experiences as she navigated through the world of biotechnology, starting with her studies at the University of Idaho in molecular biology, her MBA at Eastern University to her current role as Executive Director of Global Program Management at Amgen. Having worked in both start-ups and biotech giants, Vanessa spoke of the importance that each type of industry can offer, and exemplified the importance in drawing and mastering skill sets that come with each experience. Vanessa also put a big emphasis on how taking care of ‘you’ will ensure success in your career. ‘I love going to the beach!’ Vanessa told the full auditorium. ‘I try to get there every Sunday!’ Her point was to emphasize the necessity for a work-life balance in order to be the most productive. Additionally, using relatable metaphors, Vanessa spoke of how the biotech industry is relatively unique for its fast-paced, ever-changing environment, elegantly connecting the need for a broad and established skill-set she spoke of earlier in her presentation with the challenging nature of the industry. The keynote ended with a Q & A session whereby Vanessa welcomed questions from the audience, giving both general and personal advice to attendees on how they can succeed.

Panel I: How to make it in LA

The first panel discussion of the day was moderated by Carolyn Hull, VP of Industry Cluster Development at LAEDC, and featured a series of high-profile guests. Linda Malkas obtained her PhD in Biochemistry, then went on to work for numerous different institutions, and is now Dean of Translational Science at City of Hope. She was joined by Helen McBride, Director of Biosimilars Research at Amgen, and James Neblett, Director of Human Capital and Nantworks. The round of panelists was completed by Taylor McPartland, CEO of ScaleLA, who began his career as a studio art major and later went on to found his own company. During this informative and emboldening session, the panelists discussed how personal and professional failures have impacted their careers and prompted personal growth. With their diverse backgrounds, the panelists were able to provide an overview of opportunities in the biotech industry that are not related to bench-top work.

Sponsors Spotlights

The summit also provided for an opportunity for our event sponsors to showcase their work. We would like to thank CTSI, ThermoFisher, LAEDC, CBio, MarsBio, Magnify, CSULA, Lab Launch, and WSGR for their support in making this event happen!

Breakout Sessions

During the breakout sessions, our attendees were able to enjoy lunch whilst gaining insight from professionals across various fields including scientific communication, regulartory affairs, sales, consulting, business development, operations, field application, ideation, funding, team building, and commercialization. Mentors in “Career Development” included Roshini Prakash, PhD, Urvi Mehta, MS, MBS, Amy Hurwitz, PhD, and Glenn Williams. Upstairs on the fifth floor of CNSI, the “Start-Up Studio” mentors included Rob Rhinehart, Llewellyn Cox, PhD, and Marie Rippen, PhD. This informal setting provided the perfect opportunity for attendees to ask personal questions, and get advice from successful founders and CEOs, as well as experts in management and consulting.

Panel II: Trends in Biotech

After Lunch, BCLA welcomed the second round of panelists to discuss “Trends in Biotech”. Moderated by Arye Lipman, CTO of BioBuilt GP at MarsBio, the panel featured highly qualified guests from the SoCal area. Shaun Arora is a part owner at NEO Tech,

and on the board of several successful startups. He was joined by Kara Bortone, head of JLABS in San Diego, and John Lasko, investor/mentor specializing in supporting women- and student-led start-ups. During the discussion, our guests were able to give insightful information into what investors are looking for in start-ups and answer questions from the audience regarding the “secret ingredient” to success in the biotech industry.


For the first time, BCLA held separate sessions for K-12 students at the summit. Beginning at 1pm, students were guided to the 5th floor of CNSI for small group sessions on a multitude of different topics, tailored to educate the students on the vast career paths within the biotech industry, to help them realize what really motivates them and how to succeed in job applications and interviews. In a packed out room, 4 tables with 2 mentors each and on average 10 students per table, listened to dedicated mentors describing their experiences and giving valuable insights into how to become successful in your chosen career.

The sessions also proved to be very interactive, with the majority of time spent in the hands of the students with various workshop style activities. Every 20 minutes, mentors would move along to the next table to ensure that all students were exposed to the excellent diversity of mentors and activities on offer. Being sessions geared towards students, there was, of course, a chance to win prizes, courtesy of Thermo Fisher Scientific! A raffle was drawn and 16 lucky winners were awarded a Thermo Fisher Scientific branded back-pack.

As time ran out on the STEM K-12 sessions, however, the students and mentors weren’t done! Long after the end of the allocated time, both mentors and students remained to continue sharing and learning in what as a fantastic and inspiring end to the first BCLA K-12 student sessions. At BCLA, our passion lies in inspiring, educating and connecting emerging scientists and entrepeneurs in the Los Angeles region. This responsibility extends to our future generation of scientists, and we are excited and proud to have had such a positive and stimulating impact on our scientists of tomorrow.

Networking mixer

After a hard but productive day, it was at last time for the food, drinks and conversation! The mixer went well past its official finish time, reflecting the interaction and communication that was fostered over the days events. Again thank you to all who attended, to our sponsors, CNSI and the hard work of the BCLA team to make this summit such a success!

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