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Biotech Entrepreneurship for Girls with YWIB hosted by JLABS, November 7, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Sunday, June 9, 2019

On November 7, 2017, San Francisco Bay Area YWIB in partnership with Johnson and Johnson Innovation (JLABS) held a unique event focused on introducing high school women to biotech entrepreneurship. Twenty-five high school students from around the Bay Area attended the afternoon event in South San Francisco. Four female biotech startup founders and CEOs presented investment pitches to the audience. Casey Lynch, CEO presented Cortexyme, a preclinical stage therapeutics company developing a novel approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Crystal Nyitray, Ph.D, Founder and CEO of Encellin, described her company’s cell encapsulation technology and its first application in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Alicia Scheffer-Wong, Ph.D, Founder and CEO, presented Floragraph, a microbiome diagnostic company initially focused on providing parents with insights into their infant’s developing microbiome. Lastly, Dr. Emma Taylor, MD, CEO of Naked Biome, described her company’s live biologic product to treat acne. Each woman presented her company pitch, including a description of the technological innovation, the unmet medical need addressed by the technology, a development plan, and an ‘ask’ for funding.

The students in the audience were tasked with evaluating each company as if they were investors. In small groups over dinner provided by JLABS, the students discussed and critically evaluated each of the four technologies with the help of YWIB and JLABS mentors. One representative of each group then presented their investment decisions to the larger group. Notably, the pitch decks were the “real” presentations each CEO had previously used for investor meetings, which the attendees appreciated: “I really loved that no one watered down any of the information. They talked to us as they would investors.” Students in attendance reported that the material was “challenging, but in a good way.” Following the small group discussions, the larger group reconvened for a panel discussion on startups and entrepreneurship. (YWIB volunteers had prepared a list of questions and planned to facilitate the panel, but the students had so many questions of their own that we didn’t get to our own list!) Topics included the founders’ educational backgrounds, motivations for starting their companies, and the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Some of the lessons the students reported learning from the event included: - “How, if you want something done or realized you sometimes need to do it yourself.” - “I learned about all the steps you have to take in order to even begin thinking about a startup. It’s important to have something big that impacts you enough to want to start a company.”  -“I can start a company to address a problem I see.” - “You have to face rejection in order to succeed.”

The JLABS venue was a fantastic place to hold this event. JLABS provides incubator space for nascent biotech startups and access to capital equipment needed for early R&D. Being present in the incubator space gave the girls a visible home and context to the efforts the entrepreneurs are pursuing. The event was a valuable experience for the volunteers, as well. As one of our founders commented, “It was really uplifting to meet these young women and hope to be part of inspiring them. It's always nice to imagine that your story might have value for someone else.” San Francisco YWIB thanks Johnson and Johnson Innovation and JLABS leadership and staff for their sponsorship and the great energy and enthusiasm they poured into this event. We also wish to thank the many workshop volunteers who dedicated their afternoon and evening to help, and our attendees for their engaging participation and feedback.

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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area YWIB: "STEM CELLS… All the Cool Kids are Discovering Them!" September 12, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Sunday, June 9, 2019

On September 12, 2017, Young Women In Bio hosted an event called "STEM CELLS… All the cool kids are discovering them!" at the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) in Oakland, CA. The goal of the event was to educate young students about stem cell research and careers in science. 20 high school aged girls attended representing 11 different high schools across the Bay Area. The event kicked off with welcome remarks from CIRM’s Chairman of the Board, Dr. Jonathan Thomas and President and CEO, Dr. Maria Millan.

Dr. Thomas spoke about the exciting potential the field of regenerative medicine holds and the interesting career opportunities it offers to young students. Dr. Millan shared her experience as a transplant surgeon and clinical trial management. She focused on the important role of keeping the patients first in this field and shared stories of patients who have had their diseases cured after participating in CIRM-funded clinical trials.

After welcoming remarks, the program started with a presentation by Website & Social Media Manager, Dr. Karen Ring, who shared CIRM’s purpose to fund promising stem cell research in California and its mission to accelerate stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs. Dr. Ring also shared her passion for her other role as the Program Director for a CIRM funded high school internship program called SPARK. This summer program is a hands-on experience where students learn about stem cells and regenerative medicine and conduct a six-week research internship in a stem cell lab. Many girls in attendance were very interested in applying to one the local Bay Area SPARK programs.

Next, Senior Science Officer, Dr. Kelly Shepard gave a talk on the fundamentals of stem cells. She focused on the different types of stem cells, where to find them in the body, how to use them to model disease and develop therapies, and what makes them unique. She then focused on a particular stem cell-based therapy for patients with type I diabetes, which is currently being tested in a CIRM funded clinical trial. Throughout the presentation the girls and the YWIB volunteers had many questions for Dr. Shepard on how stem cells work and where the research field is heading.

The event was rounded off with pizza provided by Global Blood Therapeutics and a career panel featuring three CIRM team members including Senior Science Officer(s), Lila Collins and Lisa Kadyk, and Grants Management Specialist Michele Carter. YWIB volunteer and CIRM Grants Management Specialist Jennifer Mielnicki led the panel in a discussion of each of the staff’s careers in science - from where they went to college to why they pursued a career in science. The panelists told personal stories of why they were drawn to the sciences. Then the discussion focused on each of the women’s roles at CIRM and what they do each day to advance the agency’s mission to help patients.

The students provided feedback from the event and said they enjoyed learning about the potential applications of stem cell research and the current impact of stem cell therapies. Many highlighted the positive of experience of engaging first hand with women in the field of science and learning about their different career paths. Overall, the students reported that the program gave them an opportunity to ask specific questions of science professionals, and that they can see how important regenerative medicine is and will be in the future for developing new therapies. Here are some of their lesson learned:

 • “There are many different ways to be a scientist, and you don’t have to always conform to the most common path.”

• “How many scenarios stem cells can be used to cure? It’s like it’s a canvas for an artist’s creativity to create solutions left and right.”

• “That I’m interested in stem cells and the research being conduction – it’s a growing field and it’s fascinating!”

YWIB-San Francisco Bay Area is thankful to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine for welcoming these girls and sharing their knowledge and experiences. This event was inspiring for the students but also for the parents and volunteers in attendance to learn the potential of regenerative medicine.

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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area: “Inside a Biotech Company” - A Drug Development Workshop for Middle and High School Girls, March 2, 2017

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Friday, June 7, 2019

On March 2, 2017, the WIB-San Francisco Bay Area YWIB group took a drug development workshop, specially designed for middle and high school students, to a Citizen School of California after school campus in East San Jose. This was the first time Young Women In Bio took the workshop to a school or after school campus. Young Women In Bio thanks all the workshop volunteers - 25 of them who committed their time and worked with so much energy and enthusiasm to make this unique event happen. We were fortunate to have two “advocate” sponsors for the event, GRAIL Bio and Global Blood Therapeutics. Both of their financial and GRAIL’s volunteer support was critical in making this event such a success.

The objective of the workshop was to introduce girls to what it takes to make a medicine, the concepts of “benefits” and “risks” in medicine, and the careers and scientific disciplines involved in biopharma business. Twenty six middle school girls participated in the workshop. Girls were divided into four groups. Two to three life science professionals were assigned to each group, and sat with the girls as “mentor volunteers,” engaging the girls in conversations and activities.

Through a simple 12-piece puzzle activity of matching pictures with words, girls were introduced to the full spectrum of drug development road map from start-up to product launch.

This was followed by a problem-solving exercise where they as “doctors” were asked to evaluate two hypothetical cancer drugs - a cytotoxic and a molecularly targeted drug - against a dashboard of half a dozen product attributes including Safety, Efficacy, Ease of Administration, and Storage and Shipping, and recommend one of the drugs for prescription to cancer patients.

Girls learned about these two drugs at specific demo stations that volunteers had organized. With exciting hands-on science based activities using day-to-day play materials, videos, and props, the girls learned about differences in the biology of the cytotoxic and molecularly targeted drugs, went through the diverse concepts involved in formulating those drugs, safety vs. efficacy outcomes in clinical trials, and the importance of quality control in ensuring the manufacturing process produces the same medicine each time.

The girls worked as groups to analyze the product profile of the two drugs, and made recommendations to a large group of volunteers who asked each group questions.

It was very satisfying to see the girls present their ideas using flip charts, and each team member participated in her group’s presentation by sharing one or two points. There was plenty of popcorn to stimulate their discussions, and we ended the event with the usual pizza party.

The following testimonials from some of the girls summarize it all:

"I learned about a lot of things I did not know about before. I learned about medicine, which is something I am interested in exploring more." - Savanna A. "I liked how they were super nice and that we got to learn new things about medicine. It seems interesting, especially how it is researched using mice in experiments. I really love this work and what they do." - Emily M.

"I really liked learning about the process to develop medicine and figuring out how long it takes to expire and even create." - Yulie Z.

"I loved how they made the effort to help us better understand the field and feel supported in that process." - Yesenia C.

"It was very interactive, and it made me realize I had so many options open to me. I feel more informed now." - Katie L.

"I really loved the food and how interactive the activities were throughout the event." - Jaylin T.

 The WIB-San Francisco YWIB thanks the Citizen School of California leadership and staff for their ongoing help and cooperation, and the girls for their engaging participation and feedback.


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