Creating an International Hub for BioTech Collaboration


UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies and Universidad de los Andes in Santiago, Chile have collaborated to create the Business of Biotech certificate program. The aim is to create a biotech ecosystem in Chile that will allow the country to take full advantage of its resources and increase productivity. The program contains two modules, one focused on the science of biotech and the other on its business aspects. The first cohort of students began in October 2022.

San Diego is widely recognized as one of the primary hubs of biotechnology innovation in the country, if not the world.
The Torrey Pines Mesa is home to the Salk Institute, the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, and many other important biotech institutions. There’s also the extensive biotech research that’s done on campus or in partnership with UC San Diego.
What’s often acknowledged as the primary aspect of the growth and sustainability of the  biotech industry in San Diego is the ecosystem of adjacent businesses and institutions that support biotech. This includes public and private sector investment; research, scholarship and talent that comes out of UC San Diego; the proximity of the biotech institutions to each other; and myriad other business and administrative services that have emerged to serve the industry.
“San Diego has such a dynamic biotechnology industry,” said Hugo Villar, Ph.D. and Dean of the UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies. “We’re doing biofuels. We’re doing material science with biotechnology. We’re doing biotherapeutics and medical devices. The list goes on. And UC San Diego is one of the top research universities in the country, a lot of which goes towards biotechnology applications.”
This was something that didn't go unnoticed by Anil Sadarangani, Ph.D. and MBA, who spent time at UC San Diego doing postdoctoral scientific research and working towards his MBA at the Rady School of Business.
“I was able to experience this San Diego ecosystem firsthand,” said Sadarangani. “When I was at Rady, I was able to learn about both the scientific and the business side of biotech. We had programs with the medical school where we had to evaluate projects on a technical side. I saw that the scientists and the business people communicated and related to each other. I think that made a big difference. It created a very vibrant ecosystem, especially in the biotech field.”
Now, Sadarangani is the Director of Innovation at the Universidad de los Andes (UANDES) in Santiago, Chile, one of the top research and innovation universities in Chile. The biotech ecosystem he experienced in San Diego was always on his mind, so when the opportunity arose to create a new program that would help facilitate the growth of a biotech ecosystem in Chile, he knew exactly who to call.
“Hugo was my first professor at UC San Diego,” Sadarangani said. “I called him up and said, ‘Hey, I have this opportunity to create this international program with our university. Would UC San Diego be interested?’”
Villar saw it as a great opportunity.
“It's true that San Diego is one of the top biotech centers in the world, so that also makes us an extremely attractive partner to create this kind of content,” said Villar. “We have the talent in-house but we can also borrow talent from the neighborhood. The San Diego area is plentiful. There are a lot of people that we can tap to help us with different things. So that's essentially how the program came to be.”
Together they partnered to create the Business of Biotech certificate program at University de los Andes in Chile. The program seeks to bring scientists and business people together to begin to create the kind of biotech ecosystem that could help Chile thrive.

The Value of Collaboration

To understand the value of the Business of Biotech program, it’s important to understand the state of biotech in Chile.
Chile is a country rich in biotech resources and opportunities. Some of the primary industries include mining, forestry, agriculture, and aquaculture.
“This is a country that has a humongous coastline and many different environments,” said Villar. “They’re big in aquaculture and the export of salmon. They are also a powerhouse in mining. They are very interested in bioremediation techniques that would allow them to mend the environment in places that have been mined. Biotechnology offers all that.”
“With a lot of our main industries, biotechnology could play a fundamental role in terms of increasing productivity,” continued Sadarangani.
Yet the country as a whole is lacking in many of the human resources that would help them take full advantage of the opportunities, and do so in a way that ensures the resources last long into the future.
“We don't have a lot of experience here in Chile in terms of the commercialization of biotech-related projects,” said Sadarangani. “We need people who have the experience, who have made the mistakes before and are able to educate both the scientists and the business people in our community.”

Creating the New Ecosystem

This is where the Business of Biotech program comes in.
The program contains two modules: one focused on the business aspects of the biotechnology industry and the other focused on the science of biotechnology. The modules are tailored to professionals who need to develop a thorough understanding of methods and applications used in biotechnology and the business opportunities created by the dynamic industry.
In time the larger goal of the program is to create a catalyst for a growing biotech industry in Chile that can help the country grow into a more dynamic and innovative economy.
“We want to train scientists in the business aspects of commercialization of science. And we would like to train business people in the science component,” said Sadarangani. “We want to connect scientists, investors and business people so they can speak in the same language.”
The program is a total of four courses: Essentials of Entrepreneurship & Innovation, The Business of Biotech, Biotech Primer, and The Future of Biotech.
The first cohort of 17 students began their studies in October 2022.
“Biotechnology is an essential platform. It’s one of these technologies that are going to be revolutionizing the next century,” said Villar. “You can apply it in many different ways. For them, it's important to have people who are capable of understanding what is going on in this field and how it can be applied to different areas of interest.”

A Valuable Learning Opportunity

The instructors of the courses are a combination of academics, industry leaders, and practitioners in the field. The combination of perspectives provides not only education on biotech but also the concepts important to the investment, adjacent businesses and other elements of the ecosystem.
Villar expresses the importance of academic vs industry experience from the course instructors.
 “It creates a unique synergy with content that has both the theoretical concepts and the concrete application of the knowledge,” Villar said. “We have one course taught by Greg Horowitt, who is a very well-known venture capitalist. He's talking about entrepreneurship and investment. Then there is the course that is more of the business side of biotech where they develop a business plan for a startup.”
“The final course is about the future. What are the main emerging trends in biotechnology that they should be paying attention to? The emphasis is not so much on explaining to them what is happening but giving them the tools and resources they need to be able to figure it out for themselves as time goes by.”
Sadarangani shares that so far the courses have been very well received.
“They're all very happy,” he says. “What I didn't want was to have a program where most of the scientists who take it say, ‘Hey, that's simple knowledge. I can get that on the internet.’ So we applied cases and concepts to help them understand the bigger picture. It's a lot of material but that's part of the process. The experience so far has been great.”
Ultimately it’s the different perspectives that are the primary draw of the program
“The MBAs need to learn more science. The scientists need to learn more business skills. So all of that is taken into account,” said Villar. “The cohorts are designed in a way that they mix different kinds of people with different backgrounds, so they can all contribute to class.
Chile has a dynamic economy but still doesn't have the entrepreneurial critical mass that is necessary to create an ecosystem of innovation. It's very important for them to develop those skills and understandings at all levels; the scientist, the business people, and the investors.”

The Future of the Program

Both parties have high hopes and are looking forward to the future of the program
“For the University de los Andes, it’s very attractive to be able to provide this level of opportunity to their students,” said Villar “UANDES is a very significant player in the higher education market in Latin America, so it makes a lot of sense for us at UC San Diego to partner with them too. The goal is expansion of the relationship.”
Villar also envisions the program as a model that could be spread to other regions and institutions too.
“I think that there is tremendous curiosity as to how these ecosystems work. It's not enough for the ecosystem just to have scientists or to have business people. You also have to have accountants that understand biotechnology, lawyers that understand intellectual property and support from local government and investors. You really need an ecosystem of different disciplines and functions that all are focused on biotechnology. The rest of the country doesn't quite have that.”
Sadarangani hopes that the program can expand the perspectives of what’s possible for scientists and business people in Chile, as well as inspire more investors in Chile to invest in the local biotech economy.
“My hope is to have more investors investing in biotech-related projects to create the kind of  ecosystem you have in San Diego here in Chile,” Sadarangani said. “For future cohorts, I’d love to explore having investors fly to San Diego so they can get their feet on the ground and experience the biotech ecosystem there firsthand. I’d also love to have the scientist from the program connect with the San Diego ecosystem so they can create more collaborations and hopefully expand on that level.”
Villar also emphasizes the value of cross-cultural collaboration for UC San Diego, too.
“The more we can open doors, the better for everybody,” Villar said. “It improves the research and higher education goals of the university, and also provides a social benefit for all of the students, including our own. It helps by exposing them to what it's going on throughout Latin America.”
To learn more about the Business of Biotech program and the collaboration between UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies and Universidad de los Andes, visit the Sofofa Hub platform.
Posted: 3/23/2023 6:07:33 PM with 0 comments

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