Lukas Flippo, Senior Photographer

Yale graduate students have founded a New Haven-based branch of the non-profit organization Nucleate, which specializes in entrepreneurship in the biotechnology sector. In the long-term, the organization could help bring biotech startups to Elm City.

Nucleate is a Boston-based startup dedicated to training and supporting aspiring biotechnology entrepreneurs. Over the past several years, the initiative has expanded to numerous American cities, now reaching New Haven through the work of several Yale graduate students who partnered up with Yale organizations including Yale Cooperative Research and Tsai Center for Innovation Thinking at Yale. Anjali Ramaswamy GRD ’23 and Stephen Lanahan GRD founded the New Haven chapter earlier this year and have led its development as managing directors. 

Nucleate Bio is a free and collaborative entrepreneurship ‘training ground’ for aspiring biotech founders,” Ramaswamy and Lanahan wrote in an email to the News. “We founded a Nucleate Bio chapter in New Haven because we felt there was a gap in the ecosystem with regard to the number of trainees and students spearheading innovation in the biosciences versus the depth of resources available to them for company creation.”

Concretely, Nucleate provides a framework through which first-time entrepreneurs can receive help and network with other aspiring biotech entrepreneurs. More particularly, the target demographic is doctoral students, postdoctoral graduates and MBA students, according to Ramaswamy and Lanahan.  

The New Haven chapter was founded in an effort to connect students interested in pursuing biotechnology to spaces within the state of Connecticut that are dedicated to innovation. The organization also seeks to empower trainees, such as graduate students, who are learning and working within the New Haven ecosystem, according to Tianjiao Su GRD ’22, director of strategy for Nucleate’s New Haven chapter. 

I was the third person to join the team, after Stephen and Anjali, the Co-Managing Directors,” Su wrote in an email to the News. “All of us on the team are passionate about the transformative power of biotechnology to solve pressing global concerns.”

According to Lanahan, Ramaswamy and Su, there is a gap in entrepreneurship training on Yale’s campus, especially for students who are interested in life sciences. Currently, students do not have access to a program that can provide individualized support through the entire entrepreneurial process from education to actual “venture formation.”

Ramaswamy and Lanahan work in the same laboratory as researchers. In the future, they both aspire to create their own biotechnology companies and use their scientific training and expertise to provide innovative solutions to improve health outcomes. 

“We hope to create a community of aspiring bio-entrepreneurs and support them with a strong educational foundation and network,” Ramaswamy and Lanahan wrote. “Overall, we hope to help cultivate an atmosphere of entrepreneurship at Yale and support our local New Haven biotechnology scene.” 

The idea to found a New Haven chapter of Nucleate arose from a mutual desire to learn more about entrepreneurship and strengthen the culture of “biotechnology innovation” within New Haven, according to Ramaswamy and Lanahan. 

As students themselves, both of the managing directors hope to build a program that is centered around student needs and that gives the next generation of entrepreneurs the support they need. 

Nucleate Bio is run entirely by students and trainee volunteers: we do not receive payment or take equity,” wrote Ramaswamy and Lanahan. 

According to Su, students join teams to work on a core academic subject or new technology. This year’s Nucleate teams will work on challenges related to therapeutics, diagnostics, agriculture and manufacturing. 

Each team then moves through a series of workshopping events and participates in “fireside chats” with current investors and founders in the biotechnology industry. At the end of the program, each team gives a final pitch at the Innovation Summit. 

In the short term, Nucleate’s New Haven chapter aims to help participants grow professionally and gain new leadership skills. By providing networking opportunities, participants will also have the opportunity to complete fellowships, additional graduate education, or join the biotechnology industry after graduation. 

Over the long term, the chapter leadership expects that several teams will found successful ventures and achieve “early commercialization successes.” As a result, Nucleate will be able to support New Haven by creating a biotechnology hub and “talent pipeline.” In addition, by fostering innovation and helping students articulate their visions, the program aims to produce successful and innovative trainee-led ventures, according to Ramaswamy and Lanahan. 

Lanahan and Ramaswamy joined Yale’s Lucas Lab in May 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Correction, Oct. 11 The story has been updated to reflect the name change from “Nucleate Bio” to “Nucleate.” 

Selin Nalbantoglu covers the School of the Environment as a beat reporter for the SciTech desk. Previously, she covered breakthrough research as an associate beat reporter.