New Program Fast-Tracks Innovation

Joint degree prepares students to shake up healthcare

Series of six charts and diagrams tethered to a pill.Before Berkeley Haas’ dual-degree Biology+Business program even launched, junior Michelle Podlipsky attended a biotech seminar hosted by program planners and knew she’d found her calling.

“Biotech firms are trying to bring life-saving therapeutics to market, but they don’t necessarily know how to do that from the business side,” she says. “I want to help them commercialize new therapies—and clear the various regulatory hurdles necessary to do that.”

This fall, a generous donation from Berkeley alumnus Mark Robinson, BA 88 (history and political science), and his wife, Stephanie—part of a total gift of $10 million to support bio-entrepreneurship at Berkeley—has given the program a new name: the Robinson Life Sciences Business and Entrepreneurship Program.

Podlipsky, BA/BS 22, is part of the first cohort and will have the opportunity to engage in two summer internships (one each in business and science) and to take a capstone course senior year for which she’ll help a newly formed company evolve its nascent business.

The Robinsons’ gift will be used not only to encourage students to create much-needed biomedical technologies but also to create scholarships aimed at drawing more Black and Latinx students to the program. It will also establish a Biotechnology Entrepreneurship Center where early career scientists can fast-track technologies serving human health.

“One of our big goals is to create a loop of both entrepreneurship and giving back,” Mark Robinson says. “We want to create leaders who will go out into industry and make a difference by developing new medical devices, new therapies, new medicines that will change the course of human health.”

For junior Gary Liu, the joint degree program has helped him envision a career that will allow him to use the knowledge he gains to maximum positive effect.

“I came into college as premed,” he says. “But when I heard about this program, it struck me as a great combination of skills that would allow me to have even more impact than I would have as a physician.”