LabCentral Ignite Hosts First Annual bioDiversity Summit & Awards

September 22, 2022 | By Gretchen Cook Anderson

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Historically, the biotech field has overlooked the opportunity to position itself as a sought after employer to a large, more highly diverse, potential workforce from underrepresented groups and communities, despite having huge economic impact on the economy of Massachusetts and other hubs across the country. Paving pathways to entry for these talented individuals – through proactive, community-focused messaging and outreach, along with innovative training and mentoring programs – is crucial to meeting our industry’s growing workforce needs.

Certainly, there is some optimism peeking through the clouds. According to the 2022 BIO report, which surveyed 99 member companies, the overall number of women and employees of color in the biotech workforce is slowly increasing. But still, only 34% of executive teams and 20% of CEOS are women, while employees of color make up only 24% of executive teams and 28% of CEOs.

This leaves no doubt, we have a lot more work to do to connect to this under-tapped workforce and ensure talented students and entrepreneurs from all racial, gender and socioeconomic groups have a chance to contribute to biotech innovation. Their unique backgrounds, experiences and perspectives are essential to helping our field improve human health – and to expand and diversify our local economies.

LabCentral Ignite is a first-and-only-of-its-kind platform that is exclusively focused on this issue – igniting change to address systemic underrepresentation within the life sciences. We’re breaking down barriers of exclusion and forging life sciences career opportunities for talented STEM students and entrepreneurs through technical, academic and job placement training, mentoring, board and leadership prep and more. We’re also providing customized diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) leadership training for biotech startups to help the sector cultivate companies that grow from the ground up with talent diversity and inclusive excellence as values-driven pillars that define who they are and how they innovate.

The bioDiversity Summit

As part of our dedicated mission to increase biotech DEI within the industry, we’re hosting our first annual Ignite bioDiversity Summit & Awards on Sept. 27-28 at our LabCentral facilities in Cambridge, Mass. The two-day gathering will bring key groups together – including MOSAIC Innovation Consortium leaders, STEM nonprofits, higher ed faculty and grad students from HBCUs and Hispanic-serving institutions, early-stage founders, workforce training organizations and VC partners – to network and discuss actionable DEI topics and challenges, and potential solutions.

Although Day 1 is closed to the public, to allow for LabCentral tours, lab visits and formation of close connections and discussions between these groups, Day 2 is open to the public. We welcome all who are connected to or have interest in DEI within the life sciences field. We’ll bring together our entire ecosystem of participants to be part of Fire Circle conversations, including “Building Equitable Life Sciences Internship Programs” and “Fueling Workforce Diversity Through Impactful STEM Education Ecosystem, Technical Training, & Curriculum Aligned to Industry Needs.”

In addition, we’ll host a Fireside Chat with Special Guest, Eydith Comenencia Ortiz, Ph.D. and founder and CEO of CONECTA Partners, a global consulting firm that combines patient insights and generational approaches with tailored community-centered interventions to optimize the development and delivery of healthcare solutions for underserved populaces.

The bioDiversity Awards

Also on the evening of the 28th, we’ll host our inaugural bioDiversity Awards dinner celebrating those who are making tangible strides in advancing workforce diversity and inclusion in the life sciences sector. Winners will be honored in five categories: Individual Impact, Non-Profit, Educational Institution, Biotech Startup and Biopharma Industry.

We’re extremely excited to feature the Ted W. Love Award for Impact on Life Sciences Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. Dr. Love is an influential biotech leader and healthcare advocate for underserved patient populations, and the award will go to an individual who embodies this commitment to change.

This year, we pre-selected our bioDiversity Summit Award winners with the help of a selection committee made up of leaders across our life sciences community, but next year, we’re hoping to hold an open call for submissions. Stay tuned for our follow-up post on the 2022 Award winners!

Ignite Golden Tickets

During the Awards dinner, we’ll also announce our 2nd Annual Ignite Golden Ticket winners. The tickets will provide one year of advisory support and a seat at LabCentral's shared lab space in Kendall Square for four life sciences companies with entrepreneurs from diverse populations, including women and founders of color.

A Peek into the Future of DEI in Life Sciences

We’ll also unveil our new campaign, “Life Sciences in Full Color,” which will feature some perhaps surprising and unexpected but “real” faces of biotech. These are exceptional individuals who have overcome stubborn and outdated perceptions and obstacles to gain well-deserved roles in exciting biotech positions today – from lab assistants to pharmacologists to founders and CEOs.

Watch for these faces, along with more content, visuals and our “What the Heck is Biotech?” workshops in local communities throughout Boston in the months to come.

Sound interesting to you or your organization? Be an agent for change. Come join us on Day 2 of our bioDiversity Summit & Awards!