Students make connections, discover new career avenues in interdisciplinary program
By Chris Casey | University Communications
AURORA, Colo. – Carsten Schnatwinkel already has a doctorate in molecular cell biology but is discovering career avenues he hadn’t considered thanks to a certificate program in Bioinnovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus.
“What I find most exciting about taking this class is being able to make lots of connections to people with really different backgrounds,” said Schnatwinkel, who this spring is taking Building Biotechnology, part of the certificate curriculum.
Beginning its second year, the program melds the university’s health science mission with the entrepreneurial mission of the Bard Center for Entrepreneurship. The certificate is the brainchild of Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA, professor in the School of the Medicine; Madhavan Parthasarathy, PhD, associate professor of marketing and academic director of the Bard Center; and David Forlani, PhD, associate professor of marketing.
Meyers, who teaches Building Biotechnology, said class enrollment grew 50 percent since last spring. The spring class focuses on ways to get bioscience ideas to market, while the fall course examines the legal and regulatory aspects of scientific technology and commercialization.
“The bottom line is we’re growing and expanding the program,” Meyers said. “We’ve appointed an advisory board and rolled out an internship course, because a lot of this is not just education.”
The program addresses the dilemma facing many students who’ve earned graduate degrees: What do you do with a doctorate in molecular biology, for example, when there are only a handful of professor positions available nationwide?
“It’s about experiential learning, it’s about networks, it’s about mentors, it’s about connecting students to other elements of the innovation ecosystem in the area to help them succeed,” Meyers said.
Carly Kiser and Michael Stack, both graduate students in the CU Denver Business School, appreciate how the Building Biotechnology class regularly features guest speakers who discuss aspects of moving research from the bench to the bedside.
Kiser is studying toward an MBA with a focus in bioinnovation. She also works full time at a bank where she provides financial advice to startup life science companies. “This class has helped me to ask more informed questions when I’m going through my evaluation process of companies that I want to connect with a venture capitalist or that we’re willing to loan to,” she said.
Stack is working toward a master’s degree in information systems, specializing in eHealth and Healthcare Service Entrepreneurship through the Business School. Professors such as Meyers, who are well-networked and want to share their knowledge, are a key reason Stack plans to complete the certificate. “I think we’re lucky at this school to have such a prolific group of professors at the center. It’s pretty exciting,” he said.
Schnatwinkel said he enjoys learning about what is required from policy, management and innovation standpoints in bringing an idea from the research lab into the commercial area for patients. Also, “there are probably greater opportunities through this class to do internships or explore new directions,” he said. “It’s another great avenue of making networks and trying to eventually find a job.”
To complete the certificate, students must take the biotechnology and legal affairs courses as well as two Bard Center courses of their choice. Meyers said the certificate is “the poster child” for cross-campus, interdisciplinary collaboration.
“There aren’t a lot of places that are doing what we’re doing the way we’re doing it — specifically international business school and health science collaboration,” he said.
Meyers, who is also president and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, said the legal affairs class next semester will include an online option.
Kiser said the interactive certificate program in Bioinnovation and Entrepreneurship was a pivotal factor in her search for an MBA program. “That was one of the reasons I went to CU Denver,” she said. “I knew the certificate program was being developed.”
(Photo: From left, students Carsten Schnatwinkel and Michael Stack attend a class as part of the Bioinnovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate.)