Local Scientists Make Connections Inside and Outside of the Lab

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Five years ago, a brainstorming session among Eli Lilly and Company scientists and me turned in to Indy Science Connect, a group linking scientists in the academic and corporate communities. The group has monthly forums where hundreds of life sciences professionals regularly meet to share experiences and exchange business cards. 

Indiana’s life sciences sector has evolved since Indy Science Connect (ISC) held its first event in 2015. Colucid, Endocyte and Cook Pharmica were sold to larger companies while Assembly Biosciences, Elanco Animal Health and Orthopediatrics held initial public offerings. Catalent, AstraZeneca and Cook Group – among others – announced expansions of their facilities and increased hiring. Indiana’s companies continue to innovate – over 80 new products were approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 alone.

And our academic institutions continue to grow their research capabilities. The Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute received its second five-year renewal from the National Institutes of Health, and the University of Notre Dame received a major grant from the World Health Organization to research malaria. Purdue University expanded its connections to the pharmaceutical industry via its Institute for Drug Discovery and Butler University announced a major renovation and expansion of its science facilities.

ISC is a small example of one of Indiana’s greatest life sciences strengths: collaboration. Time and again, Indiana companies, universities, government and philanthropic leaders have joined together to build research capacity, attract scientific talent and ultimately help patients. The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, 16 Tech, CTSI and other major investments would only work when key stakeholders work together.

Over the past five years, ISC events have helped connect new PhDs and post-docs with life sciences employers. Introductions made at ISC events have led to future employment at Covance, AIT Bioscience, Eli Lilly and Company, Navigant Consulting and others. We’ve seen university-corporate collaborations formed after an event. And I’ve heard “I had no idea that was done here” hundreds of times. Small connections can have a big impact. 

Indy Science Connect is continuing to build bridges between academic and corporate stakeholders. One way that we’re doing that is through bi-monthly scientific talks and networking sessions.  Like the one we’re doing August 14 with Chris Leamon, PhD, of Endocyte. Another is via BioCrossroads’ poster session at the Indiana Life Sciences Summit in September. Indiana academic, corporate and research institute scientists can submit their research and present it at the conference.  

ISC provides opportunities to learn about novel research being performed in the region, make connections with industry and academic leaders and continue our Indiana tradition of collaborating with our neighbors. The more our scientists can connect, the more this critical sector continues to thrive in Indiana.

Brian Stemme is project director at BioCrossroads, Indiana's life sciences initiative.