Success Stories

David Schaffer: Stories from 10 Years of the Bakar Fellows Program

By: Niki Borghei

From the Bakar Fellows Program’s 10th anniversary series

After many years of service to the Bakar Fellows Program, former Faculty Director Dr. Amy Herr stepped down to take on the role of Chief Technology Officer at the CZ Biohub Network. That is when Dr. David Schaffer stepped in not only to direct QB3 and the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub, but also the Bakar Fellows Program. 

He described how he first became part of the Bakar Fellows community in 2018, “The first time I became involved was as an applicant to the program. A few years ago I ended up applying to this program because we had some technology that was promising, but we hadn’t gotten over the finish line. We really needed to have resources to be able to advance forward. It was risky research in the sense that we didn’t have huge amounts of preliminary data. The research has advanced to the point now that it has led to two patents, and it’s going to be transitioned to a company over the next year or so. It was a wonderful opportunity to advance research that probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise. That was how I first became involved, but then I became interested in getting involved in other ways. Now I’m fortunate enough to be the director of it.”

As a serial entrepreneur, Dr. Schaffer has a longstanding interest in technology translation. His experience with diverse talent at UC Berkeley inspires him to this day. With Bakar Fellows being experts in a wide variety of academic disciplines ranging from chemical engineering to architecture, he strives to preserve the inclusive community for people from all personal and academic backgrounds to get their technology in the hands of people who need them. 

As for what he anticipates for the near future, he plans to see more interactions between Bakar Fellows and Bakar Labs, the incubator at the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub. 

“While the Bakar Fellows Program offers the funding and community to support the translation of research, the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub and Bakar Labs provide the space for that. Bakar Labs is a great place to do technology translation, so I’d really like to have closer ties between them. Bakar Fellows can serve as scientific mentors for companies in Bakar Labs, and if Bakar Fellows decide to take the plunge and start a company of their own, then the presence of Bakar Labs makes that process much easier and much more accessible.”

He also emphasized, above all, the importance of community and education. “We’re going to start holding activities within Bakar Labs for Bakar Fellows. We do have a range of programs that are of interest, anything from intellectual property to how to put together a good pitch to get investors, developing a strong sense of a product-market fit, and more.” 

Most importantly, Bakar Fellows always have one another to learn from.