Written by Vinam Puri
The Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship (ILSE) is a non-profit organization at Kean University, NJ whose mission is to accelerate life science discoveries by supporting startups in the field. In May 2019, Rutgers iJOBS organized a visit to ILSE to help future entrepreneurs get initial guidance through interaction and advice from a panel.
When entrepreneurs start out with life science companies in the NJ area, they do not have many resources. This is mainly because of how new startup culture is in the area. That being said, the ILSE institute is unique in that it is an incubator space that provides laboratory space for startup companies that may not yet be ready to invest in a space of their own. Additionally, ILSE is also an accelerator that supports scientists and entrepreneurs that may not have the contacts or expertise required to start to their ventures. Specifically, ILSE also contains a Genomics and Bioinformatics center called Microgenomx, that provides services like sequencing, metagenomic analysis, and functional bioinformatics analyses. In collaboration with the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), ILSE has formed the ATCC Center for Translational Microbiology (ATCC-CTM) which conducts innovative research in the areas of microbiomes, antimicrobial resistance, genomics, and bioinformatics analyses as well as industrial microbiology.
The iJOBs visit to ILSE began with a panel introduction of the institute led by Dr. Sam Kongsamut, who is the executive director of the Entrepreneur Center. Each member of the panel was distinguished in his/her area of expertise and had unique experiences leading to their current positions. The panel members each shared their experiences, and attendees interacted with them to learn with respect to their own specific interests. Other panel members included Dr. Neal Connors, the Director of Research, Dr. Bob McLaughlin, Vice President of Research and Dr. Ajay Kumar who is the Vice President of Program and Alliance management – ILSE and CTM, and Dr. Holly Sutterlin, the Director of Biology and Prokaryotics Inc., an antibacterial discovery organization and one of the incubator’s residents at ILSE. Also present was Dr. Keith Bostian who is the CEO of ILSE. Dr. Bostian’s background is a unique mix of academia, industry, and entrepreneurship. He shared his journey of becoming an entrepreneur and deciding to give back to young For prospective future entrepreneurs, this was a great set of people to seek advice from and there were many interesting discussions that took place.
After the presentation, the iJOBS attendees were broken into two groups for tours around the institute. This was where we got a chance to interact with some of the members of the incubator startups. One such company was MDSeq Inc. This company is developing a proprietary molecular diagnostic platform. Fortunately, they were kind enough to let us in their space to give us an overview of their work. During this visit, the students were able to meet and interact with Dr. Terry Roemer, the founder and CSO at Prokaryotics. Dr. Roemer shared his unique journey and advice to young scientists preparing to enter the industry. One particular piece of advice he emphasized was –
“If you want to enter the industry to help with the science, you better be good at it!”
He stressed how important it is for young scientists entering the industrial workforce to bring something new and valuable to the organizations we work for. This is key to how we can stand out and make a difference.
Overall, we learned that there is a facility close to us in New Jersey, one which can help us with our entrepreneurial goals and give expert guidance and direction to increase our chances of being successful at forming independent life science startup companies. Everyone we met with was very helpful and willing to provide any help to connect students to employment opportunities in the many organizations they work with.
This article was edited by Brianna Alexander, Eileen Oni and Monal Mehta.