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What We Learned: An Intro to Entrepreneurship in Regenerative Medicine

Paige Collins

Paige Collins | Friday, December 16, 2016

In this edition of What We Learned, we reflect on the entrepreneurship workshop held by SCC-RI researchers at this year’s Till & McCulloch meetings (TMM).

For many researchers commercializing - turning discoveries made in the lab into useful products - is the ultimate goal. Finding ways to practically apply research so that it can achieve its full potential in terms of health, economic and social benefits is what gets us out of bed in the mornings.

While exciting, the process of commercialization can be daunting. Knowing what to commercialize, when to do it, and how to go about it is not always obvious. Navigating this process requires a certain degree of entrepreneurial skill.

Acquiring these entrepreneurial skills as a career academic can add another layer of difficulty to the process. Dedicating so much of your time and energy to research and other academic obligations leaves little time for other types of training; and if you did have the time, where could you go to learn? What resources exist for researchers wanting to develop their commercialization prowess? This unmet need is what inspired Drs. Eva Szabo, Ryan Mitchell and Penny Gilbert (University of Toronto) to organize an entrepreneurship workshop in partnership with the Stem Cell Network (SCN), Center for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) and Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM), that was held in conjunction with this year’s TMM.

The workshop, “Introduction to Entrepreneurship in Regenerative Medicine,” aimed to provide trainees and early career investigators with relevant experience in determining whether scientific findings could be translated into products or services, and aimed to demonstrate the key steps in developing a commercialization strategy. The workshop challenged the 26 invited participants to evaluate the research they planned to present at the TMM for commercialization potential and to generate a non-confidential product or service pitch.

By all accounts, the workshop was immensely successful. The participants we spoke to felt that they walked away feeling energized and well-equipped to evaluate and realize the commercial potential of their research.

Read below to hear from workshop participants in their own words.

Dr. Luca Orlando, Post-doctoral fellow, Bhatia Lab

To be honest, I was skeptical about the utility of an entrepreneurship workshop. As an academic, I have been pretty insulated from what goes on outside the scientific world, and it seemed unlikely that information about how to develop a start-up or how to put together an impactful pitch could be important for my career. Despite my reservations, I decided to give it a chance because I know how important it is to broaden your career horizons in today’s academic landscape.

From the beginning, I realized that I was wrong about the value of the workshop. Just by chatting with a few of the speakers at the presentation dinner, I began to realize how important it is to understand the commercialization process, and I could see how this process has the potential to positively influence how we perform basic science. The part of the workshop focused on how to develop an impactful pitch really surprised me, too. Having delivered many academic speeches throughout my career, I didn’t think that I had much more to learn. Of course, I was wrong again. Being exposed to different techniques for building a pitch that will have a big impact in a short period of time gave me new ideas for future talks, both scientific and otherwise.

At the end of the workshop, I was really happy to have had this experience. I appreciated the wonderful organization and the amazing speakers, and the fact that I left with a more evolved point of view about science and how to develop ideas.

Lili Aslostovar, PhD Candidate, Bhatia Lab

I have participated in many workshops throughout my academic training and rarely have I found them as valuable as this particular workshop. This workshop stood out for its excellent design, execution and the unique vision of the organizing team. I chose to attend this workshop to learn about entrepreneurship and commercialization, and I wasn’t disappointed. I didn’t simply leave the workshop with notes and pamphlets, I left with a different mindset. This experience motivated me to consider, for the first time, potentially participating as an organizer so that I could communicate the research that excites me and that I’m trained for.

Eva Szabo

Eva Szabo

Principal Investigator