If you’re a Partners investigator who is interested in moving a discovery from your lab into the clinic, the programs offered by the Boston Biomedical Innovation Center (B-BIC) can help to prepare you for the professional and personal challenges that lie ahead.
One of three NIH Centers for Accelerated Innovation (NCAIs), B-BIC is supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in close collaboration with Harvard Catalyst.
The center is also supported by 16 institutions throughout the Boston and New England area. It is hosted by four core member institutions, BWH, MGH, HMS, and Partners HealthCare. Partners HealthCare Innovation, is one of our strongest and essential institutional supporters says Lesley Watts, Director of Operations and Finance for B-BIC. “Without them, we wouldn’t exist.”
Watts adds that the skills and support provided by B-BIC are a natural fit with the goals of Partners Innovation, which was established to move discoveries from the Partners HealthCare system into the marketplace.
“I think of B-BIC as providing four legs: funding, project management, access to industry experts and skills.”
Filling an Unmet Need
Creating a Skills Development Center (SDC) was an imperative of B-BIC from the start. Commercializing new technologies takes a blend of business acumen, a thorough understanding of the product development process and the personal/professional skills needed to be an effective leader, communicator and networker.
“We regularly encounter situations where investigators get stuck taking it to the next step due to insufficient networking, experience and skills in what it takes to get those innovations into the marketplace,” says Elliott Antman, MD, Director of SDC. “We’re doing everything we can to bridge that gap.”
B-BIC’s learning and development programs, which are free to PHS investigators and those from other participating institutions, were developed by Cheryl Vaughan, PhD, EdM, Managing Director for Learning and Development Programs.
A biochemist by training, Vaughan worked for over 20 years as a science educator at Harvard University and has been the architect of the SDC programs at B-BIC.
The SDC was launched in the fall of 2014 beginning with courses on essentials such as intellectual property, commercialization strategies, an introduction to the world of biotech startups and a primer on the various necessary roles and responsibilities in the technology transfer space.
It has since expanded its offerings to fill critical skills gaps in nontechnical areas: communication, leadership, management and entrepreneurship.
Communication Is Key
“Registration for our communication skills workshops tend to be the highest, an indicator that our target audience understands the importance of this type of training,” says Vaughan.
“Communicating the details of the scientific process—hypothesis, experimental methods, data and tentative conclusions—this is what scientists are trained to do,” she explains. “What they rarely learn is how to convey what the science means and why it matters to people working outside the narrow slice of the population working in the same field.”
SDC workshops help investigators think about crafting stories about their science through data visualization, elevator pitches, presentation coaching, investor pitches and networking strategies. Understanding the audience that they are speaking to and tailoring their talks accordingly can be crucial to making connections.
Leadership and Management
Another key area of emphasis is building leadership and management skills as it can be challenging for scientists who have risen through the ranks as highly skilled, hands-on technical experts to transition into leadership roles where they get the work done through others, Vaughan says.
“They need to learn how to delegate, trust and support a team that they have built. This is an entirely different ball game.”
Vaughan is the facilitator for a cornerstone workshop to help investigators develop these skills. Dubbed “Managing Yourselves Before Managing Others,” it explores the personal and professional habits that work against success in this new environment and explores assumptions that hold people in the same patterns of behavior—patterns that no longer serve them in leadership roles.
Success Is in the Numbers
Antman says the success of SDC programs is reflected in the performance of the investigators who have been funded and supported by B-BIC over the past six years.
B-BIC has seen 16-fold multiplier in terms of follow-on funding for projects they have funded and supported. Ten new companies have been formed around B-BIC technologies, and 14 license agreements have been executed.
“If you talk to the investigators who have participated in SDC programs, you are likely to hear a common theme,” says Antman. “Without the SDC, the progress we’ve made in developing our products would not have been possible, or substantially more difficult.”
For more information about the SDC, please visit https://www.b-biclearning.org. B-BIC also has a YouTube channel with helpful videos on communication, product development, pitching and other skills you can visit here: https://www.youtube.com/c/bbicskillsdevelopmentcenterncai.
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