Alyse Krausz, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering, is one step closer to an exciting career in this dynamic field after becoming the first student to complete the Biomedical Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate Program (BIECP). BIECP is a non-transcript certificate program offered through the University of Michigan Medical School and administered by Fast Forward Medical Innovation (FFMI) and the Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (OGPS).
Originally from Perrysburg, Ohio, Alyse got her undergraduate degree from The Ohio State University before making her way to Ann Arbor. She has spent the last five years doing research that focuses on diagnostic systems and studying blood samples to find new ways to measure proteins in the samples and diagnose Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs).
Alyse had the typical student experience of starting college with the plan to go into a particular field of study, then switching to another. In her case, she originally wanted to be a biology major, heading towards a path in pre-med, while keeping biomedical engineering as a backup plan. But as she started getting involved in undergraduate research and working as an intern at Roche Diabetes Care, doing diagnostic and sending systems for diabetes, she realized that her Plan B was now her Plan A, and she wanted to continue doing research and earn her Ph.D.
When Alyse arrived at the University of Michigan, she became involved in a number of science and research-related extra-curricular activities, and also started looking at various U-M websites for professional development opportunities that related to working with industry. She found some interesting options that are offered through the University of Michigan Medical School. The first program she came across was the Biotech Career Development Program (BCDP). It appealed to her because it offered a broad career path and exposure to other options for people seeking a Ph.D. in biotechnology outside of the traditional academic tenure route.
“BCDP affirmed what I had been planning on doing,” said Alyse. “The program was a good exercise in contacting people I didn’t know and learning about careers of interest. That can be nerve-wracking, but BCDP helped me gain that experience and become comfortable with it. It was also a great opportunity to talk to grad students and postdocs considering other career paths and discuss why they were following those paths.”
Alyse also took Biomedical Innovation & Entrepreneurship, a collaborative Program in Biomedical Sciences (PIBS) course between FFMI and OGPS. The program gives students the opportunity to experience multidisciplinary teamwork to build a business base for a novel biomedical innovation as a method to gain essential skills for careers in entrepreneurship and other non-academic industries. Alyse said that the most beneficial part was the recitation session with small groups working on a pitch to a hypothetical investor.
“The PIBS course in biomedical innovation is one of the best classes I’ve taken,” she said. “I got to develop a pitch about my TBI research. The feedback was extremely helpful in learning what the investor is looking for and how to highlight the most important parts of the pitch. We went through the pitch presentations every week, and it definitely paid off in the end.”
Alyse can now add another important milestone to her CV with the completion of the Biomedical Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate Program. BCDP and PIBS led her to the certificate program that launched in fall 2019 because both classes, along with two pre-approved elective courses in entrepreneurship, are pre-requisites for the program.
The certificate combines science and business to train and prepare University of Michigan Medical School graduate students for an impactful career in small biotechnology startups, large pharmaceutical companies, and other entities related to biomedical innovation and entrepreneurship.
“The Biomedical Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate put everything into context for me,” says Alyse. “It really helped me to understand the scientific, regulatory, and business strategies and how they combine to create a successful product that will reach the hands of patients. For example, when you have a technology, the science is just the start. It could be the most perfect device, but if there’s not a market for it or you can’t get it patented, or approved, by the FDA, it doesn’t matter.”
Recipients of the certificate receive extensive training from experienced entrepreneurs and biomedical innovators on concepts necessary to translate biomedical research into product or practice. The program covers the fundamentals of life science entrepreneurship and allows students to practice these concepts through project-based work.
“The classes and programs required for the certificate were interesting and engaging and I got to interact with people outside of engineering and science,” recalls Alyse. “In each class we were put at tables that had people who were studying different areas such as math, physics, public health, chemistry, and engineering. And talking to the instructors gave me the opportunity to learn from people who have straddled the line between science and business. These different perspectives really helped me understand the many parts of biomedical research.”
So what are Alyse’s next steps?
“I want to work within research and development at a large medical device company. In fact, I accepted a position at BD in their Technology Leadership Development Program,” said Alyse. “There’s something fascinating about taking a blood or biological sample, measuring the proteins, and using that to gather information and study disease.”