The Innovator Next Door – The Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship
The Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship (ILSE) is an incubator and accelerator for regional startup biotechnology companies that doubles as a powerhouse for Kean students looking to launch biotech careers.
“Since ILSE was established in 2014, we have made incredible strides in creating partnerships, connecting the regional life science community and assisting new startup companies,” said Keith Bostian, Ph.D., ILSE co-founder and dean of Kean’s New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics (NJCSTM). “Equally gratifying are the real-world experience and opportunities we provide our students and graduates.”
Gaganpreet Monga ’16 M.S. of Basking Ridge and Sadikul Islam M.S. ’16 of Elizabeth are two Kean alumni who attribute their professional success to ILSE.
“I learned numerous valuable techniques involved in research in the United States at ILSE,” said Islam, who came from Bangladesh and started as an ILSE intern, receiving critical support to fund his graduate work. “It is a great opportunity for students. I learned all I need to know for scientific success.”
Housed in Kean’s STEM building, the nonprofit ILSE gives students enrolled at NJCSTM, the Kean honors STEM program, a literal window into the working world of biotech, pharmaceuticals and other life-science companies.
“As a graduate student, my lab was next door to ILSE. Being so close helps students get an understanding of how a research lab operates outside of an academic setting,” said Monga. “When I was working on my master’s project with Dr. Dil Ramanathan, once or twice, I would go to the ILSE lab for help with the microbiology component of that project.”
Monga now works at ILSE as a research associate. She has conducted microbiome research, genetically modifying bacterial strains to create lab specimens, and microbiology research to test and sequence the genome of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It’s a job that she began even before she graduated from Kean.
“There was a job opening, and I applied,” Monga said. “That’s a very good thing for students. You get opportunities right there in the same building. You get a break. You get your foot in the door.”
Islam also went from Kean student to ILSE employee. After graduating from Kean, he worked as a research associate at the Institute. His experience there led to a job at the biotechnology company Insmed, Inc. in Bridgewater where he is part of the discovery formulation group working to find antibacterial aerosol and inhaler drugs.
“As an immigrant, I believe I would have struggled to find a good job, except for the experience I got at ILSE,” he said. “I am so grateful to Dr. Bostian and everyone at Kean and ILSE.”
ILSE’s motto is Accelerate, Ignite and Innovate. While the Institute’s focus is on startup biotechnology and life science companies, the pursuit of that goal brings benefits throughout NJCSTM, Kean, the state and the region.
In addition to providing internship and job opportunities to students, ILSE awards research grants to Kean faculty and hosts major conferences and events that bring the region’s top academic and pharmaceutical researchers to Kean’s campus.
At ILSE’s inaugural Regional Academy Drug Discovery Summit in November 2017, more than 170 students, entrepreneurs and leaders from academia, business, science and pharma from across the tri-state region shared ideas and built relationships in support of drug discovery. Students at the summit learned the latest directly from scientists on the leading edge of research.
“We had poster presentations by students,” said Tom Richardson, Ph.D., ILSE vice president of business development. “Exposure to the research and scientific community on the industrial side is very valuable for them, and we will be doing more such events.”
More exciting developments are on the horizon for ILSE. The Institute is inspired by successes like Prokaryotics, an ILSE incubator company that recently signed a major licensing contract with Merck for several drug programs. Also, partnerships with other New Jersey research universities are in development. Through it all, the nonprofit will continue to push the boundaries of science and expand opportunities for Kean’s students.
Photo Caption: Gaganpreet Monga ’16 M.S. of Basking Ridge started working at the Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship, housed in the STEM Building, before graduating with her master's degree from Kean's New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics.