Credit: Liz Ridley | Mustang News

When thinking of bio-medicine, most people’s first instinct would be to think of researchers and doctors in white lab coats. However, four Cal Poly students want to change that perception. Their upcoming BioBreakthrough Conference will highlight the forgotten aspect of business in bio-medicine, environmental biotech and bio-manufacturing.

The event will take place on April 27 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be hosted by the College of Math and Science. The conference is a part of the CSM Innovation Initiative, a program meant to improve entrepreneurship within the college, and is also sponsored by Curie.Bio, a venture capital biotech business.

The goal of the conference is to improve industry connections, innovation research and student projects and to showcase non-traditional opportunities that are available in the realm of biomedicine. The co-founders of BioBreakthrough expect the conference to work as a touchpoint for expanding change and research at the university.

BioBreakthrough initially began as a concept inspired by the MIT Media Lab, an organization that works to bring interdisciplinary studies together.

Co-founder and public health senior Ethan Tse believes in capturing aspects of multiple academic colleges on campus even though the event is sponsored by COSAM. 

Tse encourages all majors to attend, as different topics covered during the sessions, such as AI drug discovery and longevity research, can appeal to anyone.

“We don’t want people to feel discouraged regardless of their major,” Tse said. “Even if they wanted to go into the business or more commercialization side, you don’t have to be at the bench the entire time to make an impact on this field.”

At the heart of the BioBreakthrough Conference is a desire to provide knowledge and expertise that the university’s coursework might not emphasize. Biological sciences senior and co-founder Andre Yarcan hopes that the conference will open doors for students to understand industry connections and show them that being a part of this industry is within reach.

“It exposes students to what’s going on out there in the real world,” Yarcan said. “A lot of students here have this idea of what research is just based off of their experience here and having people come in will kind of broaden their horizon on what the new gen research that is out there.”

The event is organized to accommodate students’ schedules. If a student misses one session early in the afternoon, they would still be able to attend one of the five featured speakers’ panels alongside the networking session that allows students to make connections.

“Those speakers come from NorCal and SoCal, and they range from people in the industry to people that are from SDSU,” Kristi Leung, a co-founder and Cal Poly graduate, said. “We’re really looking at approaching this conference by adding a broad group of speakers so each speaker that we bring in is unique.”

Leaders within the industry can be difficult for students to get in contact with. Without access, many key positions within biomedicine can be exclusive, and students may feel that these positions are only for others from ivy league communities. To co-founder and biological sciences junior Jacob Pogue, opening access to industry leaders was a key aspect of creating the conference.

“Interaction with actual employees, hiring managers, recruiters from those companies are generally pretty limited, unless you’re spending hours on LinkedIn,” said Pogue. “So hopefully, that makes it a little bit easier as well. We can kind of save people the time of scanning LinkedIn requests and cold emailing.”

The event will be solely student-run, with the four co-founders working to organize speakers, create a marketing strategy and figure out the logistics of everything. If the pilot project goes well, the team plans to make the BioBreakthrough conference an annual event. 

“We want students to dream big because this is a student-led conference and we know a lot about what their dreams are and how to get there because we’re still exploring it ourselves,” Tse said. “So dream big.”

Admission to the BioBreakthrough conference is free and it is open to all of the campus community. Food will also be provided for attendees. For more information on the event, the team has created the Instagram account @cpbiobreakthrough, which will be posting more details.