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Bio-Entrepreneurship Seminar Series: Part I

This summer, BCLA is partnering with LABH to present an exciting six-part bio-entrepreneurship series! The goal of this series is to demystify the entrepreneurial process by sharing how new biotech ventures launch, survive, and thrive. Halfway through the series, it's time to recap what we learned...

Seminar I: A Biotechnology Entrepreneur’s Story: Advice to Future Entrepreneurs

This first seminar of 2020, entitled “A Biotechnology Entrepreneur’s Story: Advice to Future Entrepreneurs” featured Dr. Alan Horsager, Director of LA BioSpace. Alan discussed his experience in exploring entrepreneurial opportunities, biotechnology commercialization, and growing a professional network in Los Angeles and beyond. The event was a great success, with over 65 attendees, as well as an active Q&A session afterwards!

The event began with an introduction of Dr. Alan Horsager by BCLA’s Outreach Lead, Sadhna Rao. Alan is a multi-faceted entrepreneur who joined us to discuss his path from academia to industry. After earning his PhD in neuroscience from USC, he started a medical device company, Eos Neuroscience, centered around vision therapy using optogenetics to stimulate retinal visual circuit. This was a stimulating discussion and touched on topics that are highly relevant today, like raising capital during an economic downturn. Next, Alan walked us through his experiences starting an epigenetics company, Episona, to investigate male infertility. This included advice regarding securing more funding, securing international intellectual property, and through product commercialization in a small market. Currently, Alan works as Director of LA BioSpace at Cal State LA, and aims to help the LA life science start-up community

To conclude, Dr. Horsager offered some take-home advice – the most important things to start a company are a great idea, the ability to communicate that idea succinctly and effectively to multiple audiences, and the ability to align people around that area in support of a common goal.

Seminar II: Career Opportunities in the Life Sciences

The second installment of the “Bio-Entrepreneurship Seminar Series” featured Eric Cui, Carolyn Bialozyski, Gabe Ferguson, and Suzanne Fazalare from Thermo Fisher Scientific, discussing career opportunities in the life sciences.

After finishing his PhD in molecular and cell biology, Eric moved back and forth between the east and west coasts and between academia and industry, before settling at Thermo Fisher in R&D product development. Carolyn has been with Thermo Fisher for 17 years and has been promoted to project manager of business transformation when she transferred sites from Wisconsin to California. Gabe is an R&D scientist with Thermo Fisher after having completed a PhD in developmental biology and then a post-doc using next generation sequencing technology. Suzanne is a recruiter at Thermo Fisher and has been in the recruitment field for 20 years.

The panelists offered great insights into their career paths and the outlook for biotechnology. They all agreed that job seekers should be proactive, self-starters, and apply to any position that could be a fit. Gabe and Carolyn shared that having a PhD degree is not a necessity for a career in R&D; the degree would only affect the starting point. As a recruiter, Suzanne looks for degrees and basic skills on resumes, and whether the candidates can effectively communicate their experiences. Eric looks for team players and people who can constantly learn new things when rounding out his group.

Overall, it was a lively discussion and we hope the participants received valuable information for their current and upcoming job searches.

Seminar III: Your Business Plan and Presentation: Articulating your Journey to Commercialization

For the third installment of the summer Bio-Entrepreneurship seminar series on Thursday July 2nd, LA Bioscience Hub together with BCLA had the opportunity to hear from Taj Ahmad-Eldridge about the practicals of how to pitch a compelling business plan on the journey to technology commercialization. This virtual seminar started off with introductions to LA Bioscience Hub and BCLA by Yordanos Gebretatios, executive director of LABH, and Martin Egeland, External Relations Lead at BCLA, and was moderated by Sadhna Rao, Outreach Lead at BCLA.

As the Senior Director of Investment at LA Cleantech Incubator, Taj walked through a template pitch deck, playing the role of a company specializing in presentation template service and sprinkling in insights from his vantage point on the other side of the table as an investor. Taj simplified the core components of a pitch deck by walking through a simplified YCombinator template. Throughout the presentation, he emphasized several important concepts including product-market fit, competitive advantage, traction (validated by key metrics), and a compelling story of the team to engage investors. Finally, Taj concluded with a case study of SeaTrec, one of LACI’s portfolio companies founded by Dr. Yi Chao and their journey to commercializing renewable-energy tech. For those interested in learning more about the process of pitching and fundraising, Taj recommended Signal and Venture Deals to continue the learning process.

Thank you to all the attendees and LA Bioscience Hub for partnering for this great event! We look forward to the next installment of the Bio-Entrepreneurship seminar series.


By Johnny Saldate, Cally Xiao, and Joseph Tsung

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