Life Sciences Technology Innovation Fellows Pitch Biotech Startups in NYC

By Katharine Downey

By: Staff
Eman Said, Rui Huang, and Kara Styers stand at the front of the room pitching at the Life Sciences Technology Innovation Fellowship Showcase.

(left to right) Rui Huang, PhD ’25 (biochemistry and molecular and cell biology), Kara Styers, MBA ’24, and Eman Said, MBA ’24, begin their pitch at the Life Sciences Technology Innovation Fellowship showcase. (photo by Sam Carter)

Cornell University’s Life Sciences Technology Innovation Fellows (LSTIF) gathered in midtown Manhattan at Cornell’s 570 Lexington Avenue space to pitch their startup ideas and celebrate a successful year at their culminating showcase event on March 16.

Cornell’s LSTIF program, offered by the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and formerly known as the BioEntrepreneurship Initiative, aims to spawn collaboration between business students, graduate research students, and postdocs with an interest in health, pharma, medtech, biotech, vet-tech, molecular bioscience, and agritech from across our colleges to develop the next generation of life science entrepreneurs. It is inclusive of our Tri-Institutional partners, Memorial Sloan Kettering and the Rockefeller University.

The program’s 2023-24 cohort paired 15 MBA students at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management with 12 researchers to collaborate on designing real-world startups. Once the interdisciplinary teams were formed, fellows began to work on developing business ideas based on Cornell research while also actively networking with life science communities based at Cornell and in New York City. Over the fall and spring semesters, fellows participated in workshops and courses that sharpened their entrepreneurial judgment.

Through alternating workshops held in Ithaca and in New York City, LSTIF fellows developed entrepreneurial judgment, learned from industry experts, and formed meaningful connections. To expose participants to a wide variety of life science innovations, sessions varied in location from the Ford Center Incubator at Rockefeller University, the Cornell Vet School, and Biolabs at NYU Langone. Guest speakers and mentors shared their distinct experiences to help guide the fellows on their entrepreneurial journey.

From September to March, LSTIF participants advanced their startup ideas through interactions with life science industry leaders, investors, experienced entrepreneurs, and Cornell faculty.

“LSTIF has transformed the way I think about building a life science startup and highlighted the importance of speaking to your future customers—providers, patients, payers, and beyond—to understand their needs first in order to create the best product,” said LSTIF participant Stephanie Azzopardi, MD/PhD ‘26.

“I’m thrilled that the Johnson School and New York State empower us as a teaching team to enable our fellows to interact with and learn from trailblazers in the life science innovation ecosystem,” said LSTIF program director Gregory Ray, PhD ’14. “I greatly appreciate the many speakers and mentors who joined us throughout the program and shared their experience and perspectives with the fellows.”

Showcasing biotech startups

The LSTIF showcase event began with Ray welcoming attendees and getting the program underway. Krystyn Van Vliet, vice president for research and innovation, shared a few words about her entrepreneurial journey with the fellows.

Teams then kicked off presentations, one by one, pitching their startups to a curated audience with the capacity to provide ongoing support. The goal was to apply the judgment and experience of the guests to each team’s business concept to help the participants build their entrepreneurial judgment.  At the conclusion of the pitches, Vishal Gaur, Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean of the Johnson School, shared closing remarks and joined the showcase invitees for networking. At the networking session, attendees posed questions and gained insights into the fellow’s projects.

Evan Trofimchuk standing and speaking into a microphone.
Evan Trofimchuk, MBA ’24 pitches to a crowd at the Life Science Technology Innovation Fellowship showcase in NYC. (photo by Sam Carter)

“Presenting at the showcase felt like a genuine biotech investor pitch, set against the backdrop of midtown NYC and attended by a diverse audience of investors, academics, and corporate executives,” said Evan Trofimchuk, MBA ’24. “Witnessing the remarkable advancements my peers achieved over the year, fueled by their evident passion and diligence, was truly astonishing. It was inspiring to learn about the business models that spurred from their PhD research projects, spanning AI-based drug discovery to cell-free nucleic acid therapeutics, among others.

“This experience not only highlighted the breadth of ambition within my LSTIF cohort,” said Trofimchuk, “but also served as a testament to the transformative potential of our collective efforts and the great importance for cross-functional academic endeavors on campus.”

As we complete this year’s cycle of the Life Science Technology Innovation Fellowship, recruitment is already underway for the program’s 2024-25 cohort. To learn more and apply, visit this Life Sciences Technology Innovation Fellows web page.

Apply for LSTIF 2024-25 Cohort

Katharine Downey is a marketing and communications coordinator at the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.