JHU Center for Biotechnology Education Hosts Inaugural Bioentrepreneurship Education Conference
The Johns Hopkins Center for Biotechnology Education (CBE) welcomed more than 20 academicians onto campus last weekend for the 1st Annual International Bioentrepreneurship Education Conference (BEC). During the one-day event, bioentrepreneurship education leaders from as far away as South Africa, South Wales, Sweden and Denmark – as well as a number of stateside leaders – met to share information and assess where bioentrepreneurship education currently stands.
One of the biggest takeaways: Similar to entrepreneurs, academic leaders are concerned about funding resources. In the case of academia, the concern was identifying resources that can help support these exciting, and in many cases, new programs.
The conference grew out of the Bioentrepreneurship Education Consortium, which was created by Lynn Johnson Langer, Director of Enterprise and Regulatory Affairs Programs in the JHU Center for Biotechnology Education, and Arlen Myers, Professor, Departments of Otolaryngology, Dentistry and Engineering, University of Colorado-Denver. Langer saw the interest and activity from the Consortium’s LinkedIn group members and offered to host the first meeting of the BEC at JHU as an opportunity for everyone to meet in person and asses the “state of the industry.”
The day began with representatives from 13 universities briefly presenting highlights about their individual programs. Programs ranged from two-day intensive Bio Bootcamps to more traditional certificate programs to a program at University of California – Davis (UCD) where PhD students can elect to add a year of bioentrepreneurship education onto their PhD programs. The UCD program currently has 235 students enrolled from 29 different programs throughout the university.
Discussions included a look at the various programs’ popularity – for example, at University of South Florida, the bioentrepreneurship program is the fastest growing master’s program at the school – to how programs are delivered, with the Johns Hopkins CBE Master’s program being the only one that can be taken entirely online.
Robert Rosenbaum, President and Executive Director of the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), provided the keynote presentation, during which he focused on what he believes should be one of the most critical components to all of these programs: how to grow a business.
He emphasized that in many ways it’s easy to start a new company, but what’s difficult is to grow it. He said he’d like all of these programs to focus on what someone should do once the business is created.
Langer said she was pleased to hear Rosenbaum talk about this point because it’s one of the differentiating factors for her new program, the Master’s in Biotechnology Enterprise and Entrepreneurship.
“The word ‘enterprise’ in our title is important,” she said. “A lot of companies fail because they don’t have a longer-term vision. We’re seeking to correct that.
“My research has focused on what it takes to have a successful biopharma company,” she added. “Over 95% of new biopharma companies fail, and I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what needs to happen so that companies can be successful in the long-run. And the results of my research have fed this new program.”
Rosenbaum concluded his keynote by talking about success and failure.
“In the corporate world, you have to fail to succeed in the end,” Rosenbaum said. “Many investors would rather fund someone who has failed with a start-up and is trying again instead of a new entrepreneur.”
He said this was an important message because, as he sees it, failure is not acceptable in academia, a point that Langer seconded.
The day concluded with five breakout sessions during which attendees set action items for the working consortium. Topics included establishing lists of core competency learning objectives and best practices, creating tools to measure the value/processes of the programs, identifying and removing barriers to bioentrepreneurship program adoption at other universities, and compiling a resource database to help make these programs more sustainable. The JHU Center for Biotechnology Education will be creating a Blackboard site to help facilitate continued conversation among the members and to help ensure that action actually occurs.
“There is very little offered in the for-credit space when it comes to bioentrepreneurship education,” Langer said. “So this conference really covered the world and represented ‘what’s happening’ in the industry. It was so rewarding to be with a group of such smart people who get it.
“It was also great to see that our program is truly a leader when it comes to this space,” she added.
Next year, organizers hope to open up the conference to companies, students, and others in the industry looking to create bioentrepreneurship programs.