Raul Hernandez OchoaWhile visiting Illumina last summer, SDSU life science students witnessed why the San Diego company that develops, manufactures and markets integrated systems for the analysis of genetic variation and biological function has more than 100 patents on its walls.

At the San Diego Zoo, they studied the biomimicry approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.

SeaBotix Inc. was a perfect place to learn about the new blue ocean market, where future real estate for building offshore could one day become available as we run out of land.

Each of these adventures were part of the Life Sciences Entrepreneur Certificate program, an intensive two-week program designed to provide students with a comprehensive overview of business matters related to the life science and technology industries.

“You learn something different every day,” said SDSU student Raul Hernandez Ochoa, a program assistant on last summer’s trip. “It’s like a crash course where you get to set up a practice pitch at the end like you would to investors.”

Hernandez Ochoa and his 30 fellow students had their eyes opened at Illumina when they saw all of the patent plaques in the hallways for applications such as DNA sequencing, RNA sequencing, and gene regulation analysis.

“At first, I couldn’t believe it,” Hernandez Ochoa said regarding the numerous patents. “It was really cool. On the tour, we got to understand how one biotech had started local and gone global.”

Students in this fascinating program were from both SDSU and the UABC campus in Tijuana, and Hernandez Ochoa worked as an interpreter for the Hispanic students. The students formed eight study groups to generate ideas for new business opportunities and refine their presentations for a final project demonstration at the program’s end.

Next up for the life sciences program is an enlightening adventure to Ensenada, Mexico this summer, where a new group of students will learn as much as their counterparts did a year ago.

A major part of the program involves students being exposed to the tools necessary to become part of the technology workforce and receive the proper guidance to become the next group of leading entrepreneurs in these fields. Through a well-balanced curriculum of in-class material supplemented with pragmatic opportunities focused on the industry, they learn to:

  • Distinguish distinct roles and requisite skills of different employees
  • Evaluate opportunities for business improvement
  • Identify and create value for their companies
  • Develop cash-flow metrics to track business processes
  • Develop marketing strategies targeted at creating a strong brand
  • Describe key regulatory agencies and basic laws
  • Develop an understanding of international business regulations

The program is taught collaboratively by faculty from SDSU’s College of Sciences, College of Engineering, and the College of Business Administration along with other experts in the field. It is administered by SDSU’s College of Extended Studies.

“This program inspired me to open my eyes to life sciences,” Hernandez Ochoa concluded.