IGI Launches Women in Enterprising Science Program to Encourage Genomics Entrepreneurs
IGI Founder, Dr. Jennifer Doudna/Nick Otto for The Washington Post via GI
A new genomics incubator launched tuesday specifically to support women entrepreneurs by promoting gender equity in science and entrepreneurship in the field of genomics.
Launched by the Institute of Innovative Genomics (IGI) to University of California, BerkeleyThe “HS Chau Women in Enterprising Science (WIES) Program to Improve Gender Equity in Bio-Entrepreneurship” aims to give female founders the launching pad they need to translate genomics research into practical solutions.
The program is designed to attract, mentor, and fund promising women entrepreneurs who are transitioning from postdoctoral fellows or UC-Berkeley faculty members to entrepreneurs.
“We want to level the playing field, help women get enough funding and take the leap into entrepreneurship,” Melinda Kliegman, IGI’s audience director, told BioSpace.
Phase I – the first year of the program – begins in September 2022. For this phase, four entrepreneurs will be selected to conduct fundamental research to support their ideas. Each of the four scholarships includes up to $150,000 for salary, benefits, supplies, and educational programs.
At the end of the first year, up to two fellows will enter Phase II, which comes with a $1 million start-up package from the HS Chau Foundation. Fellows will continue to have access to the IGI community for another 18 months. “It’s a pretty unique launch package,” IGI executive director Brad Ringeisen told BioSpace.
In addition to funding and mentorship, the WIES program provides office space and laboratories. “We are renovating one floor into an office and meeting space just for women entrepreneurs,” Kliegman said.
What sets WIES apart from other incubators is its emphasis on building a community around the program. WIES Fellows will have access to successful women entrepreneurs, including CRISPR pioneer and Nobel Laureate Jennifer Doudna, who founded the IGI, as well as advisors selected from the faculty and venture capitalists of the WIES. ‘UC Berkeley. It also includes some UC-Berkeley resources to enhance learning opportunities.
“We are a leading institution with one of the most famous scientists in the world. Our network will provide a tremendous wealth of experience and create a community to help launch careers and businesses,” Ringeisen said.
“I’ve found being an entrepreneur in the biotech world incredibly exciting and rewarding,” Doudna said during the announcement. “But too few women have the opportunity to become entrepreneurs, even though much of the innovation needed today comes from female researchers. If women dream of founding a company based on their research, the barriers that stand in their way must be removed.”
Today there are roadblocks. As Ringeisen pointed out, “You see a significant number of female graduate students in biology and biotechnology, but their numbers as entrepreneurs are small. We suspect it’s because of the lack of funding, community, and a supportive environment.
The reason is only partially societal, through. “The reason why there are so few female entrepreneurs goes back to the beginning, with too few females in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Part of it has to do with how women are socialized into when it comes to risk taking. Many have never considered becoming the leader of a company and building a community from the ground up,” Kliegman said.
“Then the moment they decide to become entrepreneurs, they get a fraction of the funding that men get in biotech,” she continued. Last year a Harvard Business Review study found that female biotech founders received just 2.3% of venture capital funding in 2020. Yet, according to Crunchbase’s 2020 study Funding for female founders report, “In 2019, 20% of global startups that raised their first round of funding had a female founder, up from 10% in 2009.” It’s a noticeable imbalance.
“Our donors want to build community and support to rebalance this situation,” Kliegman said. “Programs like WIES help women consider becoming entrepreneurs.
Further, Kliegman, added, “We try to ensure that innovations are aligned with societal values so that they are ethical, affordable, sustainable, equitable, etc. We will select fellows based on their alignment with these values as well as the strength of their proposal, science, unmet needs and milestones.
The IGI-WIES Program Selection Committee is led by Doudna, Ringeisen, and several UC-Berkeley professors. Entrepreneurship advisors include Helen S. Kim of Vida Ventures and Luciana Borio of ARCH Venture Partners.
Applications for the IGI-WIES program have just opened. Applications received by April 1, 2022 will be given priority consideration, but will be accepted until April 30, 2022. Selected WIES Fellows will be announced by June 1, 2022.
Successful candidates will have programs that align with IGI technology – genomics and genomic tools. “We plan to err on the side of broad interpretations,” Ringeisen acknowledged. “It’s the global impact we’re looking for.”
To learn more about the program and to submit an application, visit enterprisingscience.org.