Bioscience graduate students face daunting odds at landing a tenure-track faculty position in academia. In popular fields like biomedicine, fewer than one in six has a chance at a faculty job researching at a university.
What options does an early-career bioscience professional have?
A new nonprofit organization, launched by biomedical students facing these challenges themselves, want to help enterprising scientists find career options so they can pursue medical innovation in San Antonio’s private sector.
Enventure San Antonio (Enventure SA) is a biomedical entrepreneurial community designed to help students and young professionals become leaders in the biomedical and health technology space.
Students and young professionals often lack the education and experience to commercialize their research and innovations, said Jeffrey Kim, Enventure SA’s co-director. Kim, a fifth-year student at UT Health San Antonio researching Parkinson’s disease in the lab of Dr. Marcel Daadi, said aspiring scientists often lack access to organized resources on career opportunities in the private sector.
“Through workshops, networking, and events, we want to expose researchers to non-traditional career options, foster interprofessional networking, and promote the development of their entrepreneurial drive,” Kim said.
Enventure SA is a university-agnostic organization open to college students at all degree levels and transitioning veterans interested in biomedical innovation. First founded in Houston in 2012, the founding chapter has over 1500 members, 12 unique programs, and has fostered the growth of six start-ups with over $5 million in revenue. Houston’s alumni network has many members providing expertise at top consulting, investment, and pharmaceutical companies.
The goal is for Enventure SA to reproduce those outcomes in San Antonio.
“We’re looking to improve the communication and engagement between San Antonio’s student network and the bioscience industry,” said Thu Duong, Enventure SA’s co-director. “San Antonio’s biomedical companies are so spread out that it presents challenges in connecting young advanced-degree professionals to local employers.”
Plans include a “Brews & Biotech” monthly happy-hour event for students, young professionals, and industry representatives interested in biotechnology and healthcare. The “Discover” seminar series will focus on alternative biomedical careers featuring pioneering local entrepreneurs.
Bootcamps will help train students on practical skills beyond technical laboratory expertise, such as understanding intellectual property and regulatory pathways and navigating venture capital and fundraising.
The ENRICH fellowship program seeks to connect students, innovators, and young professionals, to short-term consulting projects at local life science and biotech companies. Another program called LEAP matches students with expertise to companies in the earliest stages of commercialization to work on short biotech projects.
“We include undergraduate students because in disciplines such as engineering, they don’t necessarily need a graduate degree, they need real-world experience,” Duong said.
Enventure SA is also partnering with the Military VICE Project to develop a military-specific talent pipeline, said Justin Moroney, Enventure SA’s head of programs. Skilled active-duty service members looking for a follow-on career option are often excellent candidates for biomedical consulting in military medical commercialization projects, which often requires security clearances.
Moroney, a fourth-year immunology graduate student at UT Health studying vaccine development, said the San Antonio chapter would leverage its efforts at career counseling service centers at all local San Antonio universities. Enventure SA has a partnership with the San Antonio College and Universities Career Centers Association or SACCUA.
Enventure SA’s needs include access to spaces to work and host events, sponsorships to underwrite its programs, and interest from local biomedical companies to network with students, said Colwyn Headley, the nonprofit’s deputy director.
Headley knows firsthand the value of a fellowship. The Ohio State University graduate student is working on the mitochondrial transfer of young cells into old cells (“the science of aging,” Headley explained) at the Texas BioMedical Research Institute.
You can RSVP for the San Antonio chapter’s mixer Wednesday, December 18.
The four founding members met when volunteering for Science Fiesta in 2017. Their interest in bridging the gap between San Antonio’s student network and the city’s growing biotech ecosystem springs from their shared drive to promote biomedical innovation.
“If you have a biomedical degree and have an interest in the biotech space, you’re eligible to join,” Doung said.
Featured image is of the Enventure San Antonio team. From left: Jeffrey Kim, Thu Duong, Justin Moroney, and Colwyn Headley. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.