Skip to main content

Previous Speakers

Female speaker giving presentation in lecture hall at university workshop. Audience in conference hall. Rear view of unrecognized participant in audience. Scientific conference event.

Friday, September 9, 2022 – 2:00 PM

“So you want to be an entrepreneur . . .”

So you think you want to be an entrepreneur… I am an entrepreneur, an eternal optimist struggling every day against long odds. I am lucky enough to have my dream job! But I also have to do many things that I dread – it comes with the territory. I am constantly rejected, but the rare successes are truly meaningful. If this still sounds interesting, I’m happy to tell you more about my journey from academia to a biotech startup. IDBiologics was founded in 2017 to discover and develop human monoclonal antibodies for the prevention, treatment, and cure of infectious diseases.

Friday, April 22, 2022 – 2:00 PM Zoom

“Non-Linear Career Paths: It Is OK to Change Your Mind”

Esra Roan, Ph.D., Co-Founder, CEO SOMAVAC® Medical Solutions

So much pressure is placed on us as we pick our degree in college and decide what we are meant to do for life. And then, many of us graduate to find ourselves standing in front of a hill to be climbed as fast as we can, whether in corporate or academic environments. My personal experience has been a windy road, exploring opportunities in academia, industry, and as an entrepreneur. I am enthusiastic about sharing my story to provide evidence that indeed careers need not be linear while encouraging rethinking and taking action earlier. Esra is the co-founder of SOMAVAC® Medical Solutions. Prior to her role with SOMAVAC®, she was an Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Memphis. Esra’s more than 15 years of experience in product development and biomedical research gives her the tools to enhance the lives of patients with products that make a difference. Her education is in Mechanical Engineering (TTU and U of Cincinnati).


Thursday, February 18, 2022 – 2:00 PM Zoom

“Inside the Box: Innovative Within Constraints”

David Owens, Professor for the Practice of Management and Innovation Evans Family Executive Director, The Wond’ry Innovation Center

David A. Owens, Evan’s Family Executive Director of The Wond’ry, shared his perspectives on the transforming innovation ecosystem at Vanderbilt. Dr. Owens shared The Wond’ry’s mission of enabling the pursuit of innovation, value creation and social change through active engagement, hands-on learning, and the development of creative confidence. He provided an insider’s look at the thriving and inclusive innovation community that is The Wond’ry while sharing some stories of recent campus innovators.


Thursday, February 27, 2019 – 10:00 AM 512 Light Hall


“Million Dollar Lessons: Attracting Capital to Fuel Your Biotech/Scientific Startup”

Kayla Graff
, MBA, CEO & Co-Founder SweetBio

Kayla Rodriguez Graff, MBA is the CEO and co-founder of SweetBio, a Memphis, Tennessee based, commercial-ready medical device company with FDA-cleared, honey-incorporated wound care products. Kayla spoke about SweetBio’s start-up journey, highlight their technology and why it is so complicated from a regulatory stand point, and she will give her top 3-5 tips/tricks for presenting information, attracting champions, and raising the dollars needed to convert the ideas into start-up and commercial ventures.


Friday, November 15, 2019 – 11:00 AM 512 Light Hall

F1.large“Unlocking the Promise of Medicine through Academic and Biotech/Pharma Innovation”

Gary J. Nabel, M.D., Ph.D, Chief Scientific Officer & Senior Vice President, Sanofi

Advances in understanding human disease have informed the rational design of medicines and provided major advances in human health. Combined with new technologies to identify optimal therapeutic targets, gene editing, antibody design and structural biology, these tools are delivering improved treatments for cancer, infectious and autoimmune diseases. Among therapeutic platforms, the technical advances in antibody engineering, gene delivery, vaccine design and biologics manufacturing have enabled the development of multispecific and combination medicines that target critical multifactorial pathways of disease.   These advances can be turned into medicines that benefit patients only if they can be translated into products that can be supported at scale, consistency, at a speed that fulfills their promise.  Critical to progress in the field is the ability of academic and industry scientists to collaborate scientifically and rapidly generate proof of concept for new therapies in humans.  Once these are addressed, effective late stage development will be needed to provide these medicines to patients worldwide.  Success will require continued scientific discovery and innovation through public and private partnerships.


Friday, April 5, 2019 – 2:00 PM 214 Light Hall

Conn_Laden4“From the Trenches: Perspectives on Launching a Company from Academia”
Jeff Conn, Lee E. Limbird Professor of Pharmacology; Director, Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery
Brian Laden, Co-founder and Managing Director, TriStar Health Partners



Friday March 15, 2019 – 3:00 PM  202 Light Hall

Kevin R. Ward, MD, FACEP, FAAEM,Professor, Emergency Medicine and Biomedical Engineering University of Michigan, Executive Director, Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care (MCIRCC)


“Tapping Convergence Science as a Force Multiplier for Innovation and Entrepreneurship” — Using Critical Illness and Injury as an example, this discussion will highlight the potential for innovation and entrepreneurship themed convergence science strategies to rapidly produce and de-risk game changing technologies, improving their chance of commercialization.    Ward Biosketch


Friday February 8, 2019 – 2:00 PM  214 Light Hall

Edward D. McGruder, DVM, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Elanco Animal Health
“Entrepreneurs Wanted: How to achieve exceptional results with small, focused teams”
McGruder Biosketch



Friday October 26, 2018 – 2:00 PM 202 Light Hall

Sinead Miller, CEO & Co-Founder, PATH EX, Inc.
“Launching A Startup During the PhD Journey”
Dr. Miller, a postdoc in Vanderbilt University’s Giorgio Lab, launched PATH EX, Inc., a spin-out/start-up that is “developing an extracorporeal blood cleansing device designed to selectively remove pathogens, including multi-drug resistant bacteria, and endotoxins from circulating blood.” She will discuss her career path from graduate student to leader of an academic start-up.
Miller Flyer Research News Article

Friday April 6, 2018 – 3:00 PM 214 Light Hall
: Collaborating with Industry to Advance Basic Science Research
Bentley_Alan_165pixwidthMembers of the Vanderbilt community are invited to a lecture this April 6th addressing the importance of engaging industry in supporting the advancement of promising research programs on campus. Vanderbilt’s Alan Bentley will discuss emerging initiatives at Vanderbilt to engage industry more effectively and comprehensively, and a team from Deerfield Management will discuss its collaborative approach working with premier academic institutions to catalyze early stage therapeutic development. A reception will follow. More info here.
Deerfield Management, Vanderbilt University announce launch of Ancora Innovation


Monday April 2, 2018 – 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM The Wond’ry

The Center for Tech Transfer & Commercialization (CTTC) is co-hosting an SBIR/STTR workshop with Launch Tennessee on Monday, April 2nd at The Wond’ry. This workshop will give attendees in-depth exposure to federal grant funding opportunities and resources specifically available to Tennesseans.


Friday March 23, 2018 – 3:00 PM 214 Light Hall
Dr. Dane Wittrup
C.P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biological Engineering, Massachusetts
Institute of Technology
Associate Director, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
Co-Founder, Chairman of the SAB, Adimab LLC
“Respecting Expertise: How Humility and a Decade of Effort Built the Best Antibody Discovery Platform”
Wittrup Flyer Wittrup Bio


Friday February 2, 2018 – 3:00 PM 214 Light Hall
Dr. David L. Black, Ph.D., F-ABFT, FAIC
Founder, Aegis Sciences Corporation
Founder and CEO, The Phoenix Sciences Group, LLC
Clinical Associate Professor, Immunology, Microbiology, Pathology and Pharmacology,
Vanderbilt University
“Accidental Entrepreneur”
Black Flyer Bio



Friday January 5, 2018 – 3:00 PM 214 Light Hall
“Bridging the Gap: Translating Scientific Discoveries into Commercial Ventures”
Spurlock-Polk Flyer
Polk_Julie_newJulia Polk
Chief Strategy Officer/CFO, equity and Dr.




Spurlock_Chase_newChase Spurlock CEO, iQuity