Health & Wellbeing

Growing young bioentrepreneurs

Published Aug 3, 2022

Sam Wojcik, Wellington Univentures’ Commercialisation Manager, is part of Global Biotech Revolution – a youth-led non-profit organisation focused on connecting and developing the next generation of leaders in biotech. In his role volunteering as Entrepreneurship Innovation Director, Sam is creating a network of budding bio-entrepreneurs in the Asia-Pacific region and helping them connect with the right partners and investors to get their ideas off the ground.

Creating pathways of support

After graduating from the University of Otago, Sam Wojcik pivoted into the world of commercialisation and obtained a Master’s Degree in BioScience Enterprise from the University of Auckland. Through this course, he learned about the business of science. It taught him about finance, marketing and the ins and outs of intellectual property; everything required to generate revenue from the cool science he wanted to be involved in.

Three years ago, he brought this knowledge to Wellington Univentures. As a Commercialisation Manager, he has since carved out a niche in the Biotech and Life Sciences space and works with the School of Biological Science and the Ferrier Research Institute. The diversity and global relevance of the work he does really appeals. “In this space, people are working to improve lives, solve climate change and find cures,” says Sam. “Helping to take a compound from the laboratory to the point where it is actually helping patients would be a dream.”

During his time at Wellington Univentures, Sam has made it his mission to help others who have a similar burning passion for impact. When he’s not helping the university’s scientists to commercialise their solutions to huge, global problems, his focus is on helping others to find and develop the entrepreneurial spirit. He’s trying to ease the way for New Zealand’s next generation of innovators who he hopes can go on to achieve the same kind of success as local companies like Lanzatech.

Global Biotech Revolution

In the US and EU, early career people with an interest in life sciences have access to pathways in which they can develop the skills and network they need to give their work impact. In other parts of the world, the road for emerging bio-entrepreneurs is not quite so well-trodden. The Global Biotech Revolution­ (GBR) is a not-for-profit group looking to clear the way for passionate early career people in the life sciences.

At its annual flagship event, the GapSummit, GBR brings 100 “Leaders of Tomorrow” together to learn and network. They come from far and wide to a summit that provides them with mentorship and furnishes them with the skills to pitch for funding. It’s a chance for them to hear from high-profile people about how life sciences are making a difference in the world. These young leaders are put in teams and invited to develop a solution for a major challenge or gap facing the world. They participate in different workshops and seminars on the road to the summit to equip them with the knowledge and skillset required to develop a commercially relevant solution. By the end, they make a pitch to a room full of their peers, mentors and the wider GBR community, including investors. The journey of these Leaders of Tomorrow does not stop with the summit. Many go on to use their new GBR network and passion to develop their ideas into companies to create a real impact in the world.

As an Entrepreneurship Innovation Director for GBR, Sam is developing a post-summit pathway for budding bio-entrepreneurs in the Asia-Pacific region. Ultimately, he wants to see more GBR alumni in the region go on to found world-leading companies. To do this, he is forming relationships with key partners who can provide the right support to help these young people make it happen.

“In North America and Europe, GBR does a superb job of providing its alumni community with support through key contacts and partnerships with early-stage venture capital and founder-matching firms,” says Sam. “This is something they want to actively support in Asia-Pacific. So that’s what I’m doing—trying to develop a network and build a key pathway for the next generation of innovators to succeed.”

This year, the summit is focused on challenges around sustainability of the earth’s resources (Biosphere), complexities around societal perspectives and dynamics (Sociosphere), and how best to utilise human and natural resources (Econosphere).

Sam would love to hear from anyone keen to learn more about partnership opportunities or GBR and the GAPSummit. If you’re interested, get in touch in Sam.