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Industry Lines Up to Support Access to Science Careers for Young Women of Color
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The first life science companies have stepped forward to support the NexGeneGirls program, a CLSI partner program that supports rigorous, hands-on training, academic/career exposure & navigation, research acumen, and leadership development for high school women of color from underrepresented groups. A creation of Marlena Jackson, now Diversity Talent Partner in Talent Acquisition at Genentech, the young program has put 37 students through rigorous research internships, most notably at UCSF, the Gladstone Institutes, and San Francisco State University. Four of the program’s most recent high school graduates have landed 4-year scholarships to prestigious institutions such as the University of Southern California, St. Mary’s College, Boston University, and Seattle University, having honed their research prowess and leadership skills as NexGeneGirl participants.

This summer, CLSI and NexGeneGirls expanded their partnership – CLSI has served as NexGeneGirls’ fiscal sponsor for the last 5 years – to take the to-date volunteer-led program to the next level. “NexGeneGirls started as a dream to provide young women from my neighborhood real avenues to success through the promise of science,” states Jackson. “By expanding our partnerships with industry, we have the chance to really change the equation for women of color in science.”

Hearing this call, Nektar Therapeutics, Horizon Therapeutics, Bristol Myers Squibb, and industry champion Alan Mendelson of Latham Watkins, are the first from the life sciences industry to step forward to lend their support to the expanded program vision.

Spearheading the generous contribution from Nektar Therapeutics, Jennifer Ruddock, CLSA Board Member and Nektar’s SVP of  Strategy and Corporate Affairs, had this to say: “When I learned about the NexGeneGirls program, I knew this was something Nektar would want to support. Our employees and executive leadership are committed to supporting minority and disadvantaged youth in our local community, and Marlena’s program offers much-needed development and educational resources to young women of color who live near our San Francisco headquarters in Bayview Hunters Point.” She added, “Once we learned that the program had received only small grants from technology companies such as Google, Facebook and others, but none yet from our industry, we wanted to be the first biotech company to contribute. We are looking forward to building on this important partnership.”

Pictured: Nektar Therapeutics presents sponsorship check to Marlena Jackson: From left to right, Jermaine Jenkins, Director, HR; Mary Tagliaferri, SVP, Executive Clinical Fellow; Marlena Jackson; Robert Bacci, VP, HR; Candace Workman, Contract Administrator III, Procurement.

“I knew when our companies learned how NexGeneGirls achieved the successes it had through the passion of volunteers, they would want to get involved,” stated Lori Lindburg, President & CEO of CLSI, “Yes, definitely by writing checks, but also by serving as partners who will work with us to sustain and expand opportunities to the young women who step onto this path, to help them navigate their careers and thrive as leaders in life sciences innovation.”

For more information on the NexGeneGirls program, please contact Marlena Jackson at jackson.marlena@gene.com or Lori Lindburg at lori@califesciences.org.