Novel BioLaunch program to train New Haven residents for careers in biotech
Founded by Yale Professor Craig Crews and established in partnership with ConnCAT, BioLaunch aims to have the biotech industry better represent the New Haven community.
Vaibhav Sharma, Senior Photographer
A new training program has been launched for New Haven residents interested in jobs in the city’s rapidly growing biotechnology industry.
BioLaunch’s goal is to shape the biotech industry to better benefit the broader New Haven community, as well as to provide an avenue for historically underrepresented communities in biotech to build rewarding careers. The program is designed for non-college-bound 18 to 26-year-olds and includes both a classroom curriculum and internship opportunities.
Founded by Craig Crews, John C. Malone professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and executive director of the Yale Center for Molecular Discovery, BioLaunch was developed with the support of the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, or ConnCAT, and includes partnerships with multiple local biotech companies.
“The idea [for BioLaunch] came from just the fact that I have been a New Haven resident for 28 years, and am a strong believer in the many different talents we have here and the amazing people in the city,” said Crews. “I wanted to make sure that I built the infrastructure and systems that allow people to have opportunities in these companies.”
BioLaunch is designed as a three-year pilot program, with two cohorts of New Haven residents participating each year. Each cohort will include 15 people, and upon completion of the program, participants will earn a certificate.
Each six-month cycle of the program will contain four months of classroom and laboratory training that will take place at BioLabs, an incubator space for nascent companies that is currently located on Yale’s West Campus. BioLabs will eventually move into a new development at 101 College St, Crews said.
This training stage of the program will be led by full-time trainers hired specifically by BioLaunch. The search for these employees is still underway, explained Crews.
Crews said that there are three “legs” that will contribute to the success of BioLaunch: the location, the partnership with ConnCAT and the support of local biotech industry partners.
The biotech industry is an engine for the economic growth of Connecticut, according to Crews. Given the scientific developments coming out of Yale, New Haven is a logical focal point for the development of this industry, he added.
“One of the main reasons the [New Haven biotech] ecosystem is growing so fast is because the University continues to launch a lot of new innovation, a lot of new start-up companies, and those companies attract billions of dollars of investment and create thousands of jobs,” said Josh Geballe, managing director of Yale Ventures, Yale’s hub for entrepreneurship and innovation. “We are very interested in making sure that growth is inclusive, that the benefits are available not just to the founders of the companies and the senior employees, but the broader New Haven community.”
ConnCAT is a ten-year-old job training program with multiple adult, youth and community programs, aiming to teach New Haven residents important skills for success in the labor market.
Orlando Yarborough III is the director of BioLaunch within ConnCAT and the pastor of the Black Church at Yale. Yarborough explained that the community at ConnCAT is one integral component involved in making BioLaunch a viable opportunity for residents.
“We are very excited about adding this new program to ConnCAT’s offerings and the opportunities it will offer New Haven residents,” wrote Christina Goubourn, the director of marketing and promotions for ConnCAT. “ConnCAT is all about creating pipelines to break into industries that can be challenging to enter; and BioLaunch does just that. It was created to answer the challenges of equity and diversity in the biopharma industry.”
BioLaunch currently has ten local biotech industrial partners of various sizes. Crews explained that these companies are looking to engage the New Haven community more, particularly marginalized communities that are underrepresented in the biotech workforce.
Crews emphasized that BioLaunch is industry-led because this underrepresentation is an industry problem. Having launched three New Haven-based companies himself, Crews said that he has had first-hand experience with this issue, which inspired BioLaunch.
“[BioLaunch has] amazing industrial partners,” said Crews. “There are people in companies who are recognizing the need for a program like this and have stepped up to help me pull it together.”
The industrial partners will be integral in developing the curriculum for the program, he said, helping to determine what is taught and the metrics for success.
Crews emphasized that each cohort of students will be trained to meet the specific needs of the New Haven biotech and biopharma industry, so the input of the partners is critical.
“As a member of Yale Helix, a Biotech start-up incubator, I really have felt the need and importance of mentorship in terms of entering the field of biotechnology, and I strongly believe this opportunity helps make this process more equitable,” said Sheel Trivedi ’26.
The four-month classroom and laboratory training will be followed by a two-month internship at a local biotech company, with the hope that participants will be offered a full-time position after the internship.
According to Crews, some research positions could involve “maintaining tissue culture cells or compound chemical registration,” roles that require responsibility and attention to detail.
“With the right training you don’t need a college degree, and we feel like this is something that would be a good entry-level type of position for someone from the community,” Crews said.
Crews also emphasized the importance of state funding in making BioLaunch a possibility; BioLaunch received a 2.5 million dollar grant from CareerConnectCT.
While Crews came up with the idea for BioLaunch, he said that bringing it to fruition was a group effort. Garrett Sheehan from the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce and Rebecca Velez Frey of Elm Street Ventures, chair of BioLaunch’s Industrial Partners Board, were both instrumental in the development of the program, he said.
“I learned that this field has many wonderful mentors and that the work of developing innovations for patients is incredibly rewarding,” wrote Velez Frey in an email to the News. “I believe that people of color in the New Haven area deserve job opportunities in this exciting field and I know they will make our companies stronger.”
Now, the next step is to find BioLaunch’s first cohort of participants. Yarborough explained that a potential challenge facing BioLaunch could be the difficulty of helping people new to biotech envision themselves in the industry.
Geballe explained that, for now, they are focused on making sure that these first few cohorts are successful. However, when he first heard the idea for the program, his initial response was to ask Crews how they could make BioLaunch as big as possible, as fast as possible.
“I am hoping that with programs like this that the workforce of the successful biotechs better reflect the communities in which we live,” said Crews. “I would love for this to, if successful, serve as a template for other cities to help bring underserved communities into high-tech industries.”
On Feb. 6, BioLaunch held an open house at ConnCAT for New Haven residents interested in the program. The open house included an information session as well as a tour of one of Crews’ biotech companies.
The Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology is located at 4 Science Park.