As a result of New Haven’s emergence at the forefront of biotechnology research and development, the Yale Entrepreneurial Society recently announced that it will include a new “biotechnology” category in its Y50K competition this year.

Y50K, Yale’s annual business plan competition, aims to help launch companies that seek to revitalize the New Haven community. YES awards $50,000 in cash to the winning proposals in each sector, which now include for-profit, social entrepreneurship, and biotechnology. The society has teamed up with the Yale Biotechnology Student Interest Group, the Yale Office of Cooperative Research, and Connecticut United for Research Excellence, Inc. to promote the new initiative.

YES President Nicholas Shalek ’05 said the Biotechnology division of the Y50K competition was designed to leverage off of and further catalyze Yale and New Haven’s preeminence in the life sciences. He said he hopes this step helps to bridge the gap between grant funding for basic research and venture funding for commercial applications.

“By really encouraging individuals in Yale labs to take the step from invention to innovation, we expect the new competition to produce exciting, fundable opportunities,” Shalek said.

The guidelines YES has set for competition proposals focus not only on drug discovery but on any product or service related to biotechnology or the life sciences. YES member Sonia Weymuller ’05 said because of the boom in biotechnology companies in New Haven right now, she thinks Yale students will be especially excited about the addition of this new category.

“Although Yale does not offer a specific biotechnology major, I know a lot of people who are interested in pursuing it as a career, and this will be a great opportunity to try out some of their ideas,” Weymuller said.

To get the word out about biotechnology to the Yale community, CURE will be helping YES organize events and invite speakers focusing on biotechnology entrepreneurship. The group has also offered to provide mentors from the biotechnology community to advise teams of students working on biotechnology business proposals.

CURE is the organizational center for Connecticut’s Bioscience Cluster. It represents academic research institutions, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and various supporting organizations and members from across the state of Connecticut. CURE Director of Communications Amy Andrews said YES’s initiative to increase biotechnology entrepreneurship in New Haven is a positive step for the economic health of the city.

“Largely because of the exciting environment and resources at Yale, we see many new biotechnology companies springing up in the New Haven area,” Andrews said. “This new company growth, although it takes a long time to really build up, is an important area that provides job opportunities for young students just out of school.”

Also contributing to YES’s effort in the biotechnology business is the Yale Biotechnology Student Interest Group. Composed of over 750 members, the group was designed to bring together graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the biomedical sciences, business, medicine, public health and law for educational and career-related opportunities in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. The Office of Cooperative Research has also offered its help to work with researchers to identify biotechnology inventions that could ultimately become commercial products or services useful to the public.