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Life Sciences Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program Delivers Real-World Business Skills

Louis pena
Louis pena
Louis Peña

As director of the Life Sciences Innovation and Entrepreneurship (LiSIE) program and advanced graduate certificate, Louis Peña sometimes jokes that he is a “recovering scientist.” In his current role, the inventor, author of eight patents, businessman, and entrepreneur gets to indulge two passions, keeping one foot in the worlds of both science and business.

The goal of the program, a joint effort between the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the College of Business, is to teach key business principals to life sciences students so they’re equipped to work in the business side of science.

“Not all science students want to be researchers or academics,” said Peña, an associate professor of practice with a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and in the College of Business. “Many want to go into industry and that’s often a big unknown. This is like a mini-MBA program for STEM students that facilitates the transition.”

The LiSIE program gives graduate students a path to join a biotech company or a pharmaceutical company on the management side or get involved in startups. 

“To do that they have to know what ideas are worth,” said Peña. “How do you commercialize them? This program covers that whole area to help give them a jumpstart in biotech.”

LiSIE is an extension of a program called the Fundamentals of the Bioscience Industry that has been running for almost 20 years under SBU’s Center for Biotechnology

“That’s been an incredible project-based immersion program that provides an introduction into how the biotech industry works, and became the course that anchors the LiSIE program,” he said. “Students work with actual biotech leaders on Long Island and learn about things like intellectual property, finance, and valuation.”

Peña says that what elevates Stony Brook’s program from others is the nature of the projects.

“In many university courses, there’ll be a project that students do at the end, but it’s kind of ‘make believe,'” he said. “In our course, it’s real. The instructors, who are local industry professionals, go to the Intellectual Property Partners (IPP) office here on campus, they look at the patents that are coming out and pick three or four real patents to use with permission.”

Peña said the students are required to sign nondisclosure agreements, and then they work on real intellectual property, create a business model and pitch it to actual investors or industry experts.     

Elpida Manolas

Elpida Manolas ’24, a biomedical engineering master’s student, entered the program after completing an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering. 

“I’m interested in pursuing a career within the biotechnology industry, and I felt that it would be valuable to take the classes offered as part of the LiSIE graduate certificate,” she said. “The information and knowledge I gained about the foundations of bioengineering was incredibly valuable. But I also wanted to ensure that I understood each component of this field, including the business side.” 

Manolas said she was able to hear lectures on basic financial skills, legal knowledge and the overall life cycle of creating one’s own business. 

“We covered a great scope of topics and I really appreciated gaining that knowledge,” said Manolas, who hopes to pursue a career in the engineering/biotechnology industry. “Understanding how biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies function as a whole is necessary to seeing the big picture and helping that company succeed.” 

Samantha Hayashi, a PhD candidate in the molecular and cell biology graduate program, said she “always had an interest in learning about the business side of industry but was unable to take business or entrepreneurship courses during my earlier years due to my loaded schedule fulfilling PhD requirements.”

“I took the Fundamentals of the Bioscience Industry course during my fourth year and I enjoyed it,” said Hayashi. “At the end, professor Peña came and introduced the advanced graduate certificate in Life Sciences Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I was just about to complete my graduate course work, so the timing was perfect.”

Samantha hayashi
Samantha Hayashi

The program introduced Hayashi to intellectual property, regulations, types of companies and management. 

“I also got to hear about different perspectives and experiences from various guest speakers,” she said. “I really enjoyed that these lessons were digested through hands-on learning. A few courses for the program had semester-long projects that required you to work with a team to create a new company and design your own product.” 

Hayashi called those projects a valuable part of the program. 

“The projects had a rigorous yet encouraging environment where you were thrown into building a product or business,” she said. “We were pushed outside of our comfort zones while learning important skills both in business and interpersonal relationships.”

Hayashi plans to pursue a career in industry after her expected graduation in 2025. 

“I envision myself working with a team to create new products or explore more regulations,” she said. “This program has centered my understanding of how industry works, where I can fit in, and helped prepare me to adapt to real scenarios I may face in pursuit of my future endeavors.”

Peña said he would like to see the program extended to the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook.

“If we’re interested in biomedical technologies that will benefit people, it’s not all about scientists developing drugs and devices,” said Peña. “Physicians are on the front lines of medicine and the ideas they may have are not easy to capture. If they see an innovation opportunity, the commercialization process is something they need to have learned about early on, but right now they don’t get that. Entrepreneurship in medicine doesn’t necessarily mean starting a medical practice. Maybe they want to bring a new heart valve to market. There is interest in filling this gap, so we developed a proposal with the help of Dr. Andrew Wackett, assistant dean of medical education. It would incorporate elements of the LiSIE program into medical education training. Let’s hope it gets funded.”       

Peña said the program gives graduates additional paths to explore, that they otherwise might not have been aware of.

“People in graduate programs in science are interested in science and research, of course, but they’re also looking to the future,” he said. “Industry has always been a sort of ‘black box.’ This program opens up that black box and shows you how to do it.”

Robert Emproto


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