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Lessons from the (Bio)Summit

I had the pleasure of attending the West Virginia Bioscience Summit in Morgantown Tuesday, April 21.

Wow! Lots of talented folks – faculty, students, staff.

It was fun to get more details on the autism work done at WVU and the Alzheimer’s research being conducted at the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute (BRNI). Inspiring!

I wrote about stunning talent in a previous post, and now I know that the state’s commitment to excellence in biotechnology is equally great. This dedication to elevate biotechnology has the opportunity to transform our state.

The State of Ohio, where I worked for 30 years, has a technology and commercialization fund called the Third Frontier. A more than $2 billion initiative, the Third Frontier initially received funding from tobacco settlement money; the citizens of Ohio then voted on it. This fund supports entrepreneurship and commercial activities that build a knowledge economy for Ohio.

Can we do the same or better in West Virginia?

We have an open palette to work and a committed West Virginia University leadership, including Gordon Gee, Matt Harbaugh, and Richard Giersch. In addition, expertise and interest are high in the state, including at other West Virginia universities, in the Legislature, and in industry and pharmaceutical sectors.

Working together to tangibly improve the health of our citizens, could we promote a knowledge economy and elevate the state?

We have the talent and commitment to make this better future a reality. Even more, the state needs us to do this – to flip reality and make West Virginia a magnet for entrepreneurial talent.

My long-time friend Dietrich Stephan, successful entrepreneur and chair of Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh, pointed to the need for an ecosystem and infrastructure to help aspiring young innovators navigate the turbulent waters of new company formation.

In order for businesses to be successful, entrepreneurs need to seek expertise around assessment of the technology’s fit into the current marketplace, help with business planning, preparation of a slide deck for pitching to venture capitalists, and seed money. Skilled CEOs help move the business forward. Meeting milestones, gaining trust, engaging in mentorship, operating in a lean way, and staying positive and persistent are critical factors for success.

Can we do this at WVU and in West Virginia? Absolutely! This is in our DNA – Going First.

As is said about the Marines – and I believe it to be true about the enlightened leadership of West Virginia and WVU:

Never underestimate the power of a group of people who believe nothing can keep them from success and who are willing to do anything to achieve it.