Biogen Idec Grant Sends San Diego’s Aspiring Biotech Rock Stars Into Local Schools

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identifying ways to get teen-agers stoked about science. “Connect trains its entrepreneurs to effectively communicate their science and technology to non-scientific people,” Bock says. “I can’t think of a better resource to go into schools with a combination of high science, entrepreneurship and effective communication.”

Eric Topol, behind Seal

Eric Topol, behind Seal

Connect plans to use the Biogen-Idec grant to develop a pilot program that can be extended, so that life sciences entrepreneurs also can bring their zeal into classrooms in Boston and Research Triangle Park, NC, where Biogen Idec also operates. In September, for example, the Biogen Idec Foundation awarded a $1 million grant to the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in Research Triangle Park to support the expansion of the Center’s educational training facility for K-12 science teachers.

In a statement released by Connect, Craig Schneier, executive vice president of Biogen Idec and chairman of the foundations board of directors, cited numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics that show U.S. students placed below average in math and science last year. “In math, U.S. high school students were in the bottom quarter of the countries that participate, trailing countries including Finland, China, and Estonia,” Schneier says.

Roth, who worked to develop the pilot with Lynn Schenk, a Biogen Idec board member and prominent San Diego lawyer and politician, says he also hopes to expand the program in San Diego so that high-tech CEOs also can talk about their technologies. He plans to recruit startup founders, CEOs, and other potential speakers from Connect’s Springboard entrepreneurial program, which helps local entrepreneurs to develop their business plans and commercialization strategies, and to refine their investor pitches.

Connect has been working with about 20 high schools throughout the region so far, including the Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High Charter School, a San Diego high school committed to project-based learning, and Horace Mann Middle School, according to Camille Sobrian Saltman, Connect’s COO.

“We want to make sure we work with schools that don’t have science enrichment programs and not necessarily with the schools that already have that well covered,” she said.

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