2019 Grants Challenge

Biotech Leaders Academy: Fostering a new generation of diverse biotech entrepreneurs through hands-on work and mentorship

LABH, in collaboration with East Los Angeles College and Pasadena City College, will grow the Biotech Leaders Academy - a summer program that introduces East LA students to the possibilities of becoming a biotech entrepreneur. As we embark on our 4th year, we will place more community college students into internships with biotech companies that give them valuable experience. Students will also attend an entrepreneurship academy that introduces them to pathways for creating a biotech startup.


Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

East Los Angeles College and Pasadena City College

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

Students complete Biotech Leaders Academy with appreciation for both the lab and research skills they gain, as well as the knowledge and networking provided by the entrepreneurship classes. One of our students spent her summer learning about clinical trial management and what it takes to introduce an emerging medical solution to patients and the field. Another student studied the mechanisms behind blood-forming stem cells in a state-of-the-art lab. Through a connection made from Biotech Leaders Academy, he secured a competitive science fellowship for the following year.

Students have shared that by seeing themselves reflected in the diverse set of guest speakers in the entrepreneurship academy, they were affirmed in their future career goals — some broadening their view of opportunities, and some reinforcing their specific interests.

In addition to elevating talented students and giving them tools to flourish in the field, Biotech Leaders Academy supports the growth and success of bioscience start-ups — which we want to see be successful here in LA. One of our company partners was apprehensive when we first approached them. When they worked with one of our students, they were so impressed that they asked to have two interns the following year. Within the industry, we have continued to increase awareness about the talent and creativity that community college students can bring to companies and research.

Which of the CREATE metrics will your submission impact?​​

Jobs per capita

Minority- and women-owned firms

Number of high-growth startups

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?​

East LA

How will your project make LA the best place to CREATE?

Biotech is an industry of the future. With its growing presence in Los Angeles, LABH is working towards the longer-term vision of a biotech industry where the workforce and leadership reflects LA’s diversity. Biotech Leaders Academy (BLA) is a 10-week summer program with two components: (1) an entrepreneurship academy and (2) paid internships in the biotech field.

The entrepreneurship academy exposes students from diverse backgrounds to the spectrum of career pathways and helps them understand the power and potential of their bioscience-related degree. We cultivate LA’s next generation of local bioscience company founders, CEOs, COOs, and CTOs. We foster entrepreneurship through learning modules that cover a variety of topics, including tech transfer, moving research from the lab to commercialization, securing capital, and building a team for success. Students meet local entrepreneurs and get connected to networks and resources to ensure their success here in LA.

The second component of BLA is our summer internship placement. We pair students with paid industry internships at growing biotech companies to provide them hands-on work experience in this competitive field. LABH and participating biotech companies jointly fund student compensation, ensuring meaningful industry engagement and enabling a broad spectrum of firms to participate.

BLA is designed to serve diverse students who are students of color, immigrants, women, and/or from low-income communities. These populations are prominent in Los Angeles economy and culture yet are not reflected in the growing biotech industry’s leadership. We ensure that our program’s opportunity is reaching our target demographics by partnering with each community college's Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) program, which supports students from populations underrepresented in STEM. Across our 2016, 2017, and 2018 cohorts, 97% of BLA participants were students of color, 75% were first-generation students, 44% were women, and 16% were DACA recipients.

The following is a timeline of BLA’s activities:

Company Partners Recruitment: JAN-MAR

Student Outreach: JAN-MAR

Entrepreneurship Academy Development: FEB-APR

Student Applications Due: MAR

Interviews & Internship Offers: APR

Finalize Internship Placements & Orientation: MAY

BLA Entrepreneurship Academy (JUN 21, JUL 5, JUL 19, AUG 2, AUG 16)

BLA Internship (June 17-Aug 23)

End of Summer Celebration (Aug 23)

Coming out of BLA, students feel more connected to the local bioscience industry and confident about their future in it, including as entrepreneurs. The internship experience and entrepreneurship training our students receive is catalytic to their career and academic studies. Our program alumni go on to pursue advanced opportunities, including fellowships, large company internships, and research positions. BLA truly nurtures and expands our region’s entrepreneurial and innovation economy and helps to make LA the best place to create.

In what stage of innovation is this project?​

Expand existing program (expanding and continuing ongoing successful projects)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

Biotech Leaders Academy aims to 1) increase student awareness of and confidence in biotech entrepreneurship and diverse career pathways 2) improve access to professional networks 3) strengthen student resumes with paid, academically relevant experience, and 4) increase industry and company awareness of community college talent.

We will measure our success on the following metrics:

* # of students participating in internship cohort

* # of students participating in entrepreneurship academy

* # of students indicating increased confidence in STEM studies and work place skills & abilities (post-program survey)

* # of students who indicate increased confidence in soft skills and awareness of self (post-program survey)

* # of students who stay in touch with site placement staff/interns or other students post program

* # of companies outreached to as company recruitment for internship placements

* # of companies participating in Biotech Leaders by hosting an intern

* # of companies that indicate a positive experience with their intern (post-program survey)

* % of companies who indicate they would participate in the program again (post-program survey)

We will survey students, employers, and instructors before, during, and after the program. In addition, we will gather feedback through group and one-on-one discussions.