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A Conversation With the Chancellor

As Chief Innovation and Entrepreneurship Officer, Rich Lyons, puts it: the terms “entrepreneurship” and “innovation” are not always inclusive. Many people do not hear such words and think that they can be either. Because of UC Berkeley’s commitment to inspiring excellence among a diverse population of students, the university is working to create a cognitive shift in its students. Instead of thinking “They are entrepreneurs. They can do that,” every student here has the potential to believe “I can do that.”

Thus far, UC Berkeley has made significant progress toward this goal. In the opening event for Homecoming 2021, a panel was convened to highlight an exciting initiative of UC Berkeley’s Light the Way campaign, which has so far raised $4.7 billion of its $6 billion goal to fund ambitious innovation and entrepreneurship projects on campus. The chancellor sat down with three professors and a former graduate student-turned-entrepreneur and clearly made the case for why this is such an important area for Berkeley:  UC Berkeley remains one of the best universities in the country for serial entrepreneurs, and in the past fifteen years, the university has cultivated 1300 founders and 1225 companies. Half of the startups at UC Berkeley are in the life sciences, which makes the launch of the long-awaited Bakar BioEnginuity Hub even more fitting.

“We are very excited about the imminent opening of the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub. This will be our flagship facility for transforming ideas into world-changing impact at the nexus of the life sciences with the physical, engineering, and data sciences. The Bakar BioEnginuity Hub will be a home for both established entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in the making.”

– Chancellor Carol Christ

The Bakar BioEnginuity Hub challenges the limits of what a university can do. “It used to be really clear where the edge of a university lies,” said Rich Lyons, “But that boundary is becoming fuzzier.” 

There are limits to how much one can change the world from inside the lab, but those limits begin to fade when researchers blend their years of academic work with real-world applications to solve unmet needs. This is how the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub comes to serve the UC Berkeley community and society as a whole: it provides the lab space and equipment necessary for scientists to develop their projects, but it is also a resource-rich community for ambitious entrepreneurs and curious undergraduates alike. 

Amy Herr, Professor of Bioengineering and Executive Director of the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub, has firsthand experience with the importance of community for igniting entrepreneurship. She had never seen herself as a founder of a startup until her students inspired her to take her technology out into the world. She now leads others who have made the leap from academics to entrepreneurs.

 “We are not sitting around waiting to find our passions,” she explained, “We are actively creating our own purpose.”   The Bakar BioEnginuity Hub opens its doors to startup tenants later this year and will fully launch with a grand opening in Feb 2022.  You can view the conversation below featuring Christ, Herr, Lyons and additional panelists, Professor Polina Lishko (Berkeley faculty member, former Bakar Faculty Fellow, and founder of MyChoice Therapeutics) and Dr. Tara deBoer (former Berkeley postdoc, and founder and CEO of BioAmp Diagnostics).

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