Entrepreneurs Fellowship Program helps young scientists

December 16, 2014
REEF featured a veritable who’s who of experts from Baltimore’s innovative science and technology community including Jason Brooke (center).

Graduate students at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor recently completed the first semester of an entrepreneurial boot camp focusing on basic business principles, venture capital and entrepreneurism. The Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneurs Fellowship Program was established in June 2014 with funding from the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation to help young scientists cultivate the leadership and business skills necessary to bring their bench research into commercial markets.

During the past semester, the Program featured a veritable who’s who of experts from Baltimore’s innovative science and technology community. These included Steve Dubin of SDA Ventures and former CEO of Martek, Ted Olsen of PathSensors, Paul Silber of Blu Venture Investors, and Jason Brooke of Vasoptic Medical. The program brought in real-world experts as such as patent attorneys Nick Landau of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP and Gianna Arnold of Saul, Ewing LLP.  Jamie Lacey-Moreira of Press Comm Public Relations and Jennifer Dodson of Adashmore Creative led activities on strategic marketing. Ken Malone, CEO of Early Charm Ventures, who has launched several companies in Maryland and in other states, provided advice to the program throughout the semester.

“This is just the beginning,” said Russell Hill, director and professor at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. “We believe that this entrepreneurship program is going to have a demonstrable impact on our students by broadening their career horizons. We also anticipate that the program will help to recruit new students in biotechnology who want to exercise their scientific skills within a business framework.  We are grateful to the Ratcliffe Foundation for making these opportunities possible.”  

The program runs over the course of two semesters with the Spring semester catalyzing the learnings of the Fall semester in the form of business plans and investor pitches. The Spring semester will host a number of prominent business leaders from Maryland, such as Rachel King of GlycoMimetics, Steve Davey of DSM Nutritional Products, and Blake Paterson of Cerecor.

“The program includes stipend support for two students, short course programs over four weekends for a cohort of eight students as well as externship opportunities,” said Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneurs Fellowship Program Director Nick Hammond. “We also have a pool of seed funds available to students who wish to launch their own businesses.  One student has already received a seed grant to support his start up concept.”   

Recognizing that careers in academia are limited for scientists, the Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneurs Fellowship Program prepares students to gain a more informed appreciation of the potential business implications of their research discoveries.  This effort is helping some students start their own small businesses in environmental science and helping others to prepare for careers in large companies working on such issues at nutritional supplements, aquaculture, environmental health and alternative fuel development. 

The Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology is a strategic alliance involving scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the University of Maryland Baltimore, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Scientists are engaged in cutting-edge research in microbiology, molecular genetic analysis and biotechnology, using marine life to develop new drug therapies, alternative energy and other innovations to improve public health and economic opportunities. IMET also contributes to sustainable marine aquaculture and fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay and marine ecosystems. The Ratcliffe Program builds on the Institute’s mandate to spur economic development.