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May 23, 2024

Learning About Startup Culture from Biotech Pioneers

On March 14, the CiRA Research Promoting Office gladly welcomed the leadership and research staff of two local biotech startup companies to CiRA to discuss their entrepreneurship experiences and answer questions from graduate and postdoctoral trainees about establishing and working at a startup company for the fourth event, "The STARTUP Process," in the Career GPS seminar series.

The seminar opened with Professor Hirohide Saito, the founder of aceRNA Technologies Co., Ltd., providing a short introduction to the company and offering treasured insights into the vision and motivation of an academic transforming his research findings into real-world applications. Fumihiro Sugawa (Chief Executive Officer, aceRNA Technologies) continued by giving an overview of the company, the early challenges it faced, and the new directions it undertook to find success.

Following these short talks, xFOREST Therapeutics Co., Ltd. leadership, Shunichi Kashida (Founder, Representative Director, President, and Chief Executive Officer) and Kaoru R. Komatsu (Founder, Representative Director, and Chief Technology Officer), introduced their company and educated the attendance on the incredible path they charted together as a researcher and a Ph.D. student at Professor Saito's laboratory, respectively, to create and build a successful company.

The tales of their remarkable journey undoubtedly will become a new source of motivation for CiRA trainees in the audience when dreaming up their potential entrepreneurial adventures.

After the presentations, the speakers were joined by Mandy Lung (Staff Scientist) of aceRNA Technologies, along with Hiroki Yoshida (Head of Drug Discovery Chemistry) and Ivana Duic (Staff Scientist) of xFOREST Therapeutics, as panelists to address questions by CiRA trainees curious about the startup process.

Among the various questions, the challenges faced by academic scientists or trainees interested in forging their own companies were a primary focus. Another topic of interest was the differences between working in startups, academia, and large multinational pharmaceutical companies.

A networking session was held at the end to provide CiRA trainees with a unique opportunity to interact with leaders and research staff of the biotech startups in Kyoto. Not only do they provide critical tips into the ups and downs of forming businesses based on their research, but they also serve as invaluable role models to those who might join them as founders of new startups to come.

We thank all the participants from aceRNA Technologies and xFOREST Therapeutics mentioned, as well as Georg Urtel (Director, Researcher, and European head) of xFOREST Therapeutics, who was in attendance and contributed to the planning of this event, for their valuable time and wisdom shared with the attendees. We also thank the companies for sponsoring the networking session to facilitate a direct dialogue between the invited speakers and attendees.

A panel of invited speakers affiliated with two local biotech startups
answering audience questions about entrepreneurship.

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