Fellowship Programs Ease Researchers’ Lab-to-Market Journey

As a Keller Pathways Fellow, Ph.D. student Samantha Feng is gaining the tools and networks to commercialize her research.

Samantha Feng is a Ph.D. candidate in pharmacology and toxicology, with an emphasis in biotechnology. She is passionate about translating advanced bench bed technology into exciting potential market opportunities.


“The self-confidence, persistence and good project management skills I’m developing will help me overcome the barriers projected onto women entrepreneurs.”
—Samantha Feng

She’s doing just that as a Keller Pathways Fellow. The year-long program, offered by the UC Davis Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, supports women, cross-disciplinary and other underrepresented aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs. Specifically, it combines participation in a UC Davis entrepreneurship academy with monthly cohort-based mentoring sessions alongside the Child Family Institute’s Business Development Fellows. Keller Fellows also participate in the UC Davis Big Bang! Business Competition and receive invaluable feedback from industry executives, entrepreneurs, business leaders, venture capitalists and angel investors on how to create and refine their business concept.

Ideas into Action

Keller Pathways Fellow Anna Sadovnikova is a first-year MD/Ph.D./IBCLC student at the UC Davis School of Medicine and CEO and co-founder of LiquidGoldConcept LLC, a breastfeeding education company that recently completed its first Indiegogo campaign. It is one of 15 semifinalists in the Big Bang! Business Competition and a contender in the AMA’s Healthier Nation Challenge.

“I’m learning a lot through the program—including how fluid and fast-moving it is to run a social enterprise,” Sadovnikova said.

Feng teamed up with Dustin Heeney, another Keller Pathways Fellow, to form ImmunoTag, a Big Bang! team that has made it to the competition’s semifinals. ImmunoTag has developed a novel biotechnology to prepare antibody drug conjugates that remain the same efficiency but can be prepared in 15 minutes. Feng and Heeney hope to license their nonprovisional patent to pharmaceutical partners to continue their milestone studies.

The experience has been invaluable. Heaney, who in March received a 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Program fellowship, said, “Every Big Bang! workshop is a mini-course in business development and innovation. Coming from a pure science background and having minimal exposure to these concepts was intimidating at first, but each time I pick up more and can then use these skills in real time.”

2015/16 Keller Pathway Fellows >

Two roads, one destination: Meet our fellows

The institute also offers the Business Development Fellowship Program, which provides top UC Davis science and engineering graduate and postdoctoral students hands-on experience in developing business skills for a career in industry or to launch new business ventures. Over an academic year, participants attend MBA courses alongside Graduate School of Management students, practice successful networking and enjoy first-hand insight into the entrepreneurial experience and opportunities in industry through field visits to regional startups.


“The Business Development Fellowship Program was our first focused effort at providing the broader campus’s research community with the support, training and networks necessary to help commercialize their work. We soon realized how valuable this program was and it has remained a cornerstone of our work.”
– Professor Andrew Hargadon

For 10 years, the program has helped graduate students find the means to commercialize their research, identify research with the potential for broader social impact, chart new career paths in academia and industry, and develop their leadership potential. Its 63 alumni have launched companies, found jobs in new ventures and corporate R&D, bridged the gap between university research and industry and become tenure-track faculty positions.

Stefan Kalomoiris is a doctoral candidate in the Biochemistry Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology Graduate Group. Born and raised in Greece, he moved to California to pursue his graduate education. Today his research focuses on genetically engineering mesenchymal stem cells and developing ways to use them as powerful cures to human diseases. The work has broad implications for regenerative therapies for critical limb ischemia, a major complication of atherosclerosis and diabetes.

“At UC Davis’ Institute for Regenerative Cures, I regularly meet people afflicted by a wide variety of ailments,” Kalomoiris said. “They are suffering and desperate for a cure, but the basic discoveries of science alone are insufficient to offer them relief. I hope to use this sense of urgency and empathy, in combination with the skills I gain as a Business Development Fellow, to help bring our discoveries to market swiftly and benefit these patients.

Shan Huang, a second-year master’s student in the Department of Food Science and Technology, came to the U.S. from China five years ago and graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor in food science and a minor in business. She is passionate about securing an intrapreneuriall role within industry where she can apply her research on food powders to nourish lives by helping deliver nutritious, safe, low-cost and sustainable food products to consumers.

“In the food industry—or even broader, in the consumer packaged goods industry—a successful R&D career involves not only advancing technologies, but also aligning with colleagues from other functional teams, such as marketing, consumer insight, finance and operations, to deliver the result. The program is helping me better communicate with partners who are outside the technical community so that I can excel in my work at the beginning of my career.

“In the long term, I believe the exposure to strategic innovation management can help me better develop plans to lead R&D teams and manage a greater technology/product portfolio.”

Meet our 2015/16 Business Development Fellows >



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