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2019 Year in Review

2019 has been a year of rewarding developments and growth at the California Life Sciences Institute.  We are grateful that we continue to thrive in a community of outstanding startups, researchers, students, educators, advisors, friends and other supporters who are the inspiration and backbone of CLSI’s efforts to support California’s remarkable life science innovation pipeline.

Below are just a few highlights from each of CLSI’s 3 program pillars:


As of this month, 69 startups will have completed the FAST advisory program, nine of them during 2019.  These FAST graduates have collectively raised over $1B, including 27 Series A or higher investments, 16 have formed strategic partnerships, 14 are generating revenue, and 5 have successfully exited since leaving the program. FAST graduates have more than tripled their workforce, creating 397 new jobs. This success is in part due to the over 7300 hours offered by CLSI’s network of over 400 advisors valued at over $1.6M.

In other FAST news, FAST graduate Reservoir Neuroscience (Fall 2019) was awarded the 2019 CA Jumpstart Grant by PharmaDirections from Pharma Directions. The company, which is developing therapeutics to repair the blood-brain barrier, restore vascular function in the brain, and reverse age-related cognitive impairment, will receive up to $25,ooo in services towards the development of a product development plan and GANTT chart.

CLSA Fellows have taken the award four out of the last five years.  Our congratulations to the Reservoir team!

As part of CLSI’s effort to continue to build our robust FAST community, CLSI took its quarterly FAST & Fellow Networking Events to neighboring incubators Bonneville Labs and MBC BioLabs in 2019, welcoming additional Bay Area startups into our growing FAST community.

Continuing and new partnerships have allowed CLSI to bring commercialization expertise to product developers, startups and emerging companies from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the UK who are seeking to spin out companies and/or gain commercial footholds in the U.S. CLSI’s inaugural and subsequent FAST International Showcases for Startup and Emerging Companies, in June and December, allowed several of the FAST International participants to present their companies to our community.

Initial metrics for one of our FAST International partnerships showed that the 6 companies had raised $7.95M from the U.S and internationally; 3 companies had identified 10 strategic partners; 3 had increased their customer base in their home country and the US; and 6 had hired 39 employees.

CLSI continued to serve as an accelerator to CARB-X, the globe’s largest public-private partnership devoted to accelerating antibacterial innovation, which has awarded over $160.6M in grants to date, with 52 active portfolio companies/product-developers in 7 countries. The program is a boost to California, with 21 of grantees securing 26% of the funds to date.

As a CARB-X accelerator, CLSI has helped to map the funding landscape for companies in this space and is entering into a pilot to assist four German researchers who are seeking to commercialize their AMR products


Melanie Quan, a 10th-grader from Las Lomas High School, was selected CLSI’s 2019 Amgen Bay Area BioGENEius Challenge first-place winner for her research focusing on using waste products of algal biofuel production to create algae-based bioplastics that are compostable, water soluble, and work as a natural fertilizer. Melanie went on to take one of the second highest honors at the BIO International BioGENEius Global Environmental Challenge at BIO 2019 in Philadelphia!

CLSI partner NexGeneGirls – which offers rigorous hands-on-training, internships (at UCSF, the Gladstone Institutes and SFSU), and leadership development to female high school students from San Francisco’s underrepresented communities – was pleased to celebrate its first program graduate, Trinity Boykin. Trinity has received a full scholarship to St. Mary’s College, where she was also one of the youngest interns selected for a research internship last summer! Senior Samaa Rasheed has also just learned that she has received a full scholarship to Boston University next year!

One of the true highlights of the year occurred at CLSA’s 19th DiNA Pantheon Awards, where BioGENEius Melanie Quan was joined on stage by 2nd– and 3rd -place Bay Area BioGENEius winners Shruti Shridar and Shreya Garg, as well as NexGeneGirl seniors Samaa Rasheed, Eyuche Okori and Cameron Ross, where they announced their research projects to multiple standing ovations.  Watch the video here.

At Right: Bay Area BioGENEiuses and NexGeneGirls seniors are joined on stage by Briana King, a student in the Pantheon Biotech Educator of the Year’s – the UCSF Science & Health Education Partnership’s – program; Pantheon Life Sciences Leadership recipient, Dr. Jennifer Doudna; NexGeneGirls founder, Marlena Jackson; and CLSI President & CEO, Lori Lindburg.

SSF Science Empowerment Initiative

San Francisco USD excited about science and science careers. The community initiative has enlisted 8 South San Francisco life science companies – Allogene, Merck, Myokardia, Nkarta, RAPT, Sutro, Theravance, and Verily – for employee volunteers to serve as coaches in an 8th grade Helix Cup science competition, with and developed by Genentech, during Q1 of 2020!

Life Science Connections

CLSI Life Science Connections are career-focused activities that enable students to meet industry professionals from diverse backgrounds, experiences and careers, and to develop ongoing professional connections that will enhance their career exploration. During 2019, CLSI and partners served over 2,000 students in high schools and community colleges throughout the Bay Area, connecting them with industry volunteers for hands-on science labs, career talks, speed networking, mock interviews, resume review, job shadowing, Capstone mentoring, and more.


More than 300 professionals took advantage of over a dozen professional development courses offered by CLSI in 2019.

Included in this was CLSI’s continued efforts to help females of all ages advance in their careers through its Women Leading Life Sciences initiative:

Women Life Science Executive Dinners convened with Kilpatrick Townsend, Genentech, and Latham & Watkins brought together women executives from mature and emerging companies and investment firms for private dinners and peer-to-peer exchanges on industry issues.

Leadership Edge for Women

Launched in 2018, the 6-week series offered by CLSI partner, The Leadership Edge, continues to sell out, exploring themes such as Finding Your Authentic Leadership Style, Finding Your Niche for Career Success, and Networking for Success.

As Steve, Julie, Amy and I celebrate a full and exciting year at CLSI, we are so grateful to be a part of this vibrant life science community.  We thank you and welcome our continued work together to support the remarkable innovators who are developing – or who will soon develop – life-saving discoveries.

All the best for the holidays and see you in 2020!