The goal of the Bioscience & Entrepreneurial Inclusion Initiative is to strengthen the region’s bioscience ecosystem by identifying high-potential, talented women & minority bioscience entrepreneurs and providing a systematic pathway for them to create viable high-growth ventures
To support this goal and vision, in 2008, BioSTL began organizing on-going collaboration aimed at creating a network of organizations and individuals committed to collaborative action that increases inclusion within biosciences. The effort began with meetings of a small group of CEO-level community leaders and has since evolved to include 85+ leaders and practitioners from organizations throughout the community. In 2014, BioSTL began programming a series of activities along a pathway: build awareness about opportunities in bioscience; engage individuals in learning more about those opportunities; provide training to support an individual’s engagement in biosciences; and, finally, build connections to resources to help move individuals toward employment in bioscience or starting a new bioscience venture.
2017 PLANNED ACTIVITIES
- Awareness-raising activities about bioscience entrepreneurship: Introducing St. Louis innovation opportunities across bioscience, IT and advanced manufacturing sectors, and providing training around unique considerations for bioscience ventures through the VISION symposium and other events.
- Programming to expose high school students to bioscience, food science and agriculture biotech through the EXPLORE externship program with Diversity Awareness Partnership
- Exposing community members to local examples of bioscience entrepreneurs in a causal setting through “Evening With” conversations
- Strengthening new businesses through providing follow on advising to select graduates of CET’s Square1 programing
- Convening regional leaders to identify opportunities to further support entrepreneurs from ideation to implementation to scalability of a business idea
- 450+ people participated in informational events that raised awareness among women & minority professionals of opportunities in the region’s innovation economy (including bioscience, technology and advanced manufacturing). Participants were connected to 34 entrepreneur and workforce support organizations
- 150 female and students of color from middle and high schools across the region have participated in hands-on externships in the areas of bioscience and agriculture with corporations and innovation-focused nonprofit organizations
- BioSTL has awarded $25,000+ to high-potential, high-growth women & minority-owned startups
- Three times a year, BioSTL convenes representatives from 140 partner organizations to share best practices, align activities and strengthen efforts to build a wholly inclusive innovation ecosystem in St. Louis
- BioSTL received a $420,000 Kauffman Foundation grant aimed at helping women and minority entrepreneurs.
The collaborative spirit among BioSTL stakeholders has proved a distinguishing characteristic of St. Louis' bioscience cluster and is an integral component of the Inclusion Initiative. Partners in promoting inclusion in entrepreneurship are:
- Center for Emerging Technologies through the expansion of entrepreneurial training programs;
- Diversity Awareness Partnership through EXPLORE programs for high school students
- KWS, MilliporeSigma, Venture Cafe and Dupont through their support of expaning EXPLORE programming for EXPLORE Ag Bio, EXPLORE Bioscience and EXPLORE Food Science
- ITEN and St. Louis Makes through collaboration and co-hosting VISION
BioSTL has engaged Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore as Director of Bioscience & Entrepreneurial Inclusion to guide the program. Cheryl will bolster existing collaborations with organizations across the St. Louis region as well as seek new partnerships to promote inclusion in entrepreneurship as well as in the region’s bioscience talent and workforce pipelines.
Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore began her career as a physician, then added an M.B.A. from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and developed business leadership experience by managing teams in large global and start-up organizations in the life science industry. Cheryl is CEO of UPstart Innovations, LLC and Accelerated Rehabilitation Technologies, LLC, both start-up companies focused in the bioscience technology market. Most recently, Cheryl served as an Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR) with the BioGenerator, supporting the formation and growth of new bioscience startups. She concurrently served as a mentor for tech entrepreneurs with the Capital Innovators accelerator program as well as mentored entrepreneurs in Washington University’s Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. Previously, in her role as Vice President and General Manager, Cheryl led the Integrated Biomarker Solutions business and prior to that role headed the Analytics Division for the North American market of EMD Millipore, the U.S. subsidiary of Merck KGaA. Prior to Merck, Cheryl managed the U.S. marketing operations for Swedish-based biotech start-up company, Biora Inc.
The St. Louis Bioscience Inclusion Initiative launched with early meetings of CEO-level community and business leaders and has evolved to include 81 leaders and practitioners from organizations throughout the community. Together, the group aims “to create a network of organizations and individuals committed to collaborative action that increases inclusion within the biosciences here in St. Louis.”
Meetings of the Bioscience Inclusion Network have raised awareness in St. Louis about inclusion in the biosciences and spawned programmatic connections between meeting participants that further extend science-related opportunities to the diverse populations of the region. By bringing together organizations from across the region, each focused on different facets of the biosciences (from k-12 education to start-up companies and entrepreneur support organizations to major corporations), the conversations have helped to identify the variety of disparate efforts occurring in the region and build connections among organizations who otherwise had never partnered together. Examples of collaborations occurring from the Bioscience Inclusion Initiative conversation include:
- The Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a $1.8 million multi-agency federal grant (matched by $700,000 from BioSTL) that includes a component specifically targeted for outreach to and engagement of minority—and women—owned businesses interested in starting a bioscience company or providing products or services to bioscience companies
- Pfizer’s summer teachers program, which utilized relationships from the group to recruit minority teachers and primarily minority school districts to participate in their summer teachers workshop for the first time
The Bioscience Inclusion Network continues to meet regularly to promote further collaboration and advise BioSTL on its inclusion efforts.
Images courtesy of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Confluence Life Sciences