A Recap From the Steering Committee

Wednesday, August 18 2021

The ASCEND Hub Steering Committee met on July 14, 2021. The committee — which is comprised of representatives from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, University of Hawaii, University of Idaho, University of Nevada-Reno, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, University of Montana, Montana State University, University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, and University of Wyoming — discussed successes, challenges, and areas for improvement within the Hub alongside representatives from the National Institute of Health (NIH). 

To date, the ASCEND Hub has established 400+ open access partners and resources and engaged with 700+ aspiring entrepreneurs through bootcamps, webinars, and short courses. The Committee highlighted the popularity and successes of the comprehensive one-on-one business advising, grant application assistance, and mentorship programs offered. Moreover, ASCEND Hub-associated companies have won $15M+ from NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants and contracts in addition to government contracts and innovation funding. $22M+ in investment capital has also been raised by Hub-associated companies. Overall, the program and associated companies have seen a great deal of success and we are excited for what is to come.

Additionally, the Steering Committee discussed challenges and areas for improvement. The three areas in which the ASCEND Hub will be focusing efforts in the upcoming year are:

  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI)
  • Engagement with entrepreneurs
  • Program sustainability

First and foremost, the ASCEND Hub is working diligently to create a more diverse leadership team. The Steering Committee is in the midst of establishing a sub-committee on EDI whose members would reflect the diverse ethnicities, cultures, and interests of the communities the ASCEND Hub serves with the ultimate goal of creating more inclusive programming and increasing diversity amongst program participants. To achieve these goals, the EDI Committee will work closely with the NIH Proof-Of-Concept Network Action Committee of EDI (PACE) to brainstorm outreach strategies, share resources and tools, and develop programming ideas. The EDI Committee will also collaborate with diversity and inclusion offices at universities. 

Second, increasing engagement with entrepreneurs in the western IDeA states is a priority of the ASCEND Hub. The Steering Committee is looking to increase the Hub’s interaction with incubators, accelerators, venture capitalists, angel investors, small business organizations, and regulatory consulting firms, among others, to provide program participants the resources and tools they need to advance regardless of where they are at in the entrepreneurial cycle. Specifically, the Steering Committee will place an emphasis on establishing connections with investors and accelerators to best meet the needs of the ASCEND Hub.

Lastly, the Steering Committing is devising and assessing strategies to sustain the ASCEND Hub after the NIH funding sunsets. Revenue from public-private partnerships, private donors, state funding, licensing agreements, product sales, fees, and other sources are being evaluated, and it is likely that the ASCEND Hub will rely on multiple revenue streams to continue programming in the future. However, the success of the ASCEND Hub to date demonstrates the ability of entrepreneurial resources and advising to shift the biotechnology landscape in the western IDeA states in a positive direction. The Steering Committee is optimistic in their ability to secure the funds necessary to support the ASCEND Hub. 

As we work to grow and strengthen the ASCEND Hub, we are always looking for companies, organizations, and individuals with a passion for biotechnology entrepreneurship to work with. If you are interested in collaborating with the ASCEND Hub, please contact Kathy Foster at kfoster@ascendhub.org

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