CU Entrepreneur of the Year Shows Power of Persistence

Schleifer, the 2019 Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year who majored in biological sciences as a Cornell undergrad, shared the successes and failures he experienced while growing his biotechnology company, Regeneron, during an April 11 conversation with Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering. Schleifer was on campus to be honored during Celebration, Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s annual two-day conference.

“I have this notion that as long as I can see some light, no matter how long the tunnel is, I am willing to get back on the horse,” Schleifer said, after showing a graph that depicted his company’s profits and losses over the years. He called the graph “26 years until we made more money than we spent.”

“We fell down three times,” Schleifer said, “but somehow it just seems like failure is part of the research game, just as it’s part of life.”

Today, Regeneron is one of the world’s leading biotech companies, with seven FDA-approved treatments and 20 experimental medicines to help patients with eye disease, heart disease, allergic and inflammatory diseases, pain, cancer, infectious diseases and rare diseases.

Regeneron was founded 30 years ago after Schleifer – then an assistant professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine – noticed that all of the interesting research he was reading came from companies like Genentech.

“I went to my mentor and said, ‘What about starting a company to take on neurologic diseases?’” Schleifer said. “[He] said, ‘That’s a stupid idea. Get back in the lab and do something good.’”

Schleifer was undeterred (“I’m fairly stubborn,” he said) and he moved ahead, raising $1 million in venture capital and filling his board with physicians and scientists.

“The science had to drive everything that we did,” he said.

Originally tackling two drugs for Lou Gehrig’s disease, then another focused on obesity, the company was running out of money, but continued to hunt for breakthrough drugs.

They hit the jackpot with Eylea, a drug to treat macular degeneration and other eye diseases; Dupixent, which treats atopic dermatitis and asthma; Libtayo, which targets squamous cell cancer of the skin; and four other drugs.

“Our success is measured in the patients we’ve helped,” Schleifer said, as he shared some success stories: a man about to enter hospice care whose tumors went away after six weeks, allowing him to return to a normal life; and a young girl who had a debilitating skin condition covering most of her body and is now able to enjoy her life.

Schleifer touched on creating “miracles,” and the need for entrepreneurs in his field to be more interested in a promising lab discovery that might not bring in money for five to 10 years than the latest sales figures for an existing drug.

He also shaDr. Leonard Schleifer ’73, the 2019 Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year, talks with Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering, April some advice for startup founders.

“Young entrepreneurs aren’t lacking brains, enthusiasm or commitment, but the one thing they’re lacking is experience,” he said. “It’s important to recognize that you don’t know everything and to find people who have that experience and are willing to work with you and teach you.”

He also emphasized the importance of finding good partners and the willingness to do things your own way and stick to your convictions, even when the markets or the industry say otherwise.

“This is a great country that is willing to finance good ideas,” he said. “But you have to be persistent and pound the pavement.”

Schleifer, who received his medical degree and a doctoral degree in pharmacology from the University of Virginia, founded Regeneron in 1988 and is its president and CEO and a board member. He is also a licensed physician, certified in neurology by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell. This story appeared originally in the Cornell Chronicle on April 15, 2019.

New Class is a Win-Win for M.Eng. Students and Local Startups

Robert Newman, a Senior Lecturer in Engineering Management in Cornell’s College of Engineering, had some specific objectives when he launched the new class ENGMT 5940: Economics and Finance for Engineering Management.  He wanted to ensure that graduating engineers had the fundamental skills and vocabulary to speak confidently and professionally with upper management and corporate finance departments regarding projects.  He also wanted to ensure his Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) students were exposed to a wide variety of real-world situations requiring economic analysis and work with senior management.

One important focus of Cornell Engineering’s M.Eng. degree, no matter which school or department offering the degree, is to give students exposure to the work professionals do in their field, day in and day out. According to Newman, for students earning their M.Eng. in Engineering Management, that means “applying economic principles within an engineering environment—as this gives students more context about how projects are evaluated in a real company.”

While preparing to teach the class, Newman called his colleagues Brad Treat and Ken Rother. Both Treat and Rother are heavily involved with a business incubator and workspace in Ithaca called REV: Ithaca Startup Works. “Classes I teach are not prerequisites for anything but life,” says Newman. “I want my students to get skills they will be able to apply right away. I knew that Brad and Ken would be able to help me find companies with real questions my students could help them answer.”

Rev logoThe companies Rother and Treat found to support this collaboration, Iko Systems, Heat-1, Kingsley Quality Woodworking, ShrubBucket, and Wicked Devices, are all members of Rev.

Newman spent the first third of the semester making sure the students had the fundamentals and the tools they would need in order to communicate well and to give these companies the answers they were looking for. And then the students spent the rest of the semester working closely in small teams alongside representatives of the companies, digging into vexing problems and coming up with answers.

Dirk Swart, CEO of Wicked Device LLC, says, “This was one of our most successful student engagements—maybe even the most successful. They were a good team, they did the job we needed them to do, and they communicated clearly…Rob (Newman) did a good job of setting them up for success and they were able to take it from there.”

Chelsey Kingsley, CEO of Kingsley Quality Woodworking Incorporated adds, “I wanted some outside perspective and expertise to define some of our obstacles and find solutions. The questions the students asked provided me an opportunity to clarify my own thinking and their input helped me see some aspects of our process and pricing that I had not addressed before.”

Newman reports that “in all five cases, the CEOs or business leaders say they gained valuable insights into their companies that they did not expect and all five are eager to work with student groups again.”

So it is clear the first semester of Newman’s new class was a success from the companies’ point of view. But how about from the student perspective? Engineering Management M.Eng. student Mridul Chulet , who worked closely with Iko Systems, found the experience valuable. “I would recommend this class to engineering students who want to learn the basics of economics and finance and then have a chance to apply those basics in the real world,” says Chulet. “I learned how engineers make economic decisions and I liked being exposed to financial statement analysis.”

Manu Khandelwal, also an Engineering Management M.Eng. student, was in a group that worked with Chelsey Kingsley. He had an excellent experience. “Applying the course knowledge to help a small business make better decisions was a very hands-on, unique, and satisfying experience,” says Khandelwal. “We developed a basic pricing and decision-making model to save time and money. Moreover, just going through the process of introspection was beneficial for the business, as it highlighted the importance of reviewing and updating the existing process.””

“I am very happy with how the class went this first time out,” says Robert Newman. “The CEOs and students are happy too, so I would say it was a great success. I am thankful to all of the companies that helped make this class so worthwhile.” Newman will teach the class again in the fall of 2019.

Cornell Computer Science Alum Featured on Podcast

Euwyn Poon was born in Singapore and moved to Canada as a young lad. His entrepreneurial tendencies and drive were evident at a young age. He entered Cornell University at the age of 15. After graduating with a degree in computer science, he went to Cornell Law School. It was during a sabbatical from Simpson Thacher, a top NYC law firm, he got the entrepreneurial bug and joined Y-Combinator. Euwyn is a great observer of the inefficiencies that surround us and turning them into business opportunities. He started Spin after a trip to China. Less than two years later, he sold it to Ford Motor Company.

Hear the full episode here.

NY Business Plan Competition Deadline Approaching

The New York Business Plan Competition is the only leading collegiate business plan competition that is a regionally coordinated, collaborative, statewide program. With thousands in prizes, it is one of the largest collegiate business plan competitions in the world.


Dates to remember:

2/1/19 – Applications Open

4/3/19 – Applications Due

4/10/19 – Presentations Due

4/13/19 – Regional Competition in Binghamton

4/26/19 – State Competition in Albany

TEC to Host Pitch Competition

Technology Entrepreneurship at Cornell (TEC) will be hosting a pitch competition for graduate students on Monday April 22nd.  You will have the opportunity to showcase your entrepreneurial spirit and pitch your startup or startup idea in front of judges and win cash prizes.

TEC Graduate Pitch Competition: 1st place prize – $1,000   2nd place prize – $250

Startup/ideas can be in any area and teams must be composed of primarily graduate students (no restrictions on size).  To enter, please submit pitch deck and team bio to by Friday April 19th 5pm.  Teams selected to pitch will be notified, with preference given to early-stage ideas and submissions from non-MBA students.  Pitches will be limited to 6 minutes followed by 6 minutes Q&A with judges.

For questions, please email

Pitch competition time: Monday, April 22nd 5-7PM

Location: eHub Kennedy Hall

2019 Big Idea Competition

Open to all current Cornell Undergraduate Students. Eight finalists will be determined by a group of experienced entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, non-profit, and business professionals. Semi-finalists will also receive consultations with a mentor/coach about their idea and ways to improve their submission.

$9,000 in prizes are supported by the Vijay (MEng ’75) and Sita Vashee Promising Entrepreneur Award Endowment Fund.

Business Category:

  • 1st Place Business Category- $3000
  • 2nd Place Business Category- $1000
  • 3rd Place Business Category- $500

Social Category:

  • 1st Place Social Category- $3000
  • 2nd Place Social Category- $1000
  • 3rd Place Social Category- $500


  • March 8, 2019 Application Deadline
  • March 22, 2019  Eight Finalists Announced
  • April 12, 2019  BIG Idea Competition Finale – Three minutes to present to live audience of peers, faculty, entrepreneurs, distinguished guests, and public audience this year at eHub Collegetown, Third Floor (305 Multipurpose Room). The winners will be selected based upon a combination of rankings by judges and audience popular vote.

Contest Rules

An idea can be submitted by a “team” (consisting of multiple people), but all team members must be current Cornell Undergraduate Students. Only one person needs to fill out the form and put their name on it.

If you have previously entered The Big Idea Competition (formerly known as The Undergraduate Business Idea Competition), you can re-enter your exact same idea or a different idea. If you previously won prize money from the competition, you are not allowed to enter your previous winning idea.

Entries must be early-stage ideas, and not developed businesses.  As such, an idea that already has a functioning business associated with it will not be accepted. Specifically, the idea:

    • Cannot be generating revenues
    • Cannot already have received funding or financing of any form
    • Must not have previously been accepted into an accelerator or incubator
    • Cannot have any legal form of incorporation

Once submitted the idea is finalized for that round, if the team/individuals advance in the competition the idea may be amended based on comments and feedback from mentor/coach. Although amendments can be made, the fundamental idea cannot change from round to round.


“Alternative” Career Development Event to be Held March 15, 2019

The Plant Biology Graduate Student Association is hosting an “alternative” career development  event — in reflection on the small percentage of PhDs who are likely to remain in academia after graduating. We are hosting a Q&A panel of leaders in the IP/innovation space with a networking social to follow.  The event will take place on Friday March 15th from 3-5PM in Weill Hall 224.

The goals of the event are to give attendees a sense of both what their roles might be if they pursue this type of career and the types of non-science professionals with whom they would be working. We are inviting graduate students in diverse fields to participate to create opportunities to practice sharing our work with non-expert professionals and recognize the power of interdisciplinary dialogue.

Confirmed speakers:

Zach Shulman, Devin Craven, Peter Salmon, Brad TreatJulie Baker, and Alice Li


Use this link to register.

Contribute panel questions here

Commercialization Fellows Application Deadline Extended to March 7, 2019

The deadline for the Commercialization Fellows program has been extended by a week to March 7, 2019.

Cornell Engineering is now offering Commercialization Fellowships—a unique opportunity for Ph.D. students to spend a fully-funded semester and summer in an intensive entrepreneurship program with a personal mentor to explore commercializing a product of the student’s choosing. From intellectual property management to supply chains, students will learn the tools, methods and skills for bringing a product or technology to market.

The fellowship experience will enable deep experiential learning in the commercial side of innovation, and one-on-one mentoring assures a deep, personalized educational experience unmatched by traditional entrepreneurship programs.

Learn more about the Commercialization Fellowship curriculum and the expected commitment of participants

New deadline to apply is March 7, 2019.  The application and instructions are available through the link below. 

Regeneron CEO named Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year

By: Kathy Hovis ,  Cornell Chronicle
January 23, 2019

Entrepreneurship at Cornell has announced that biotech leader Dr. Leonard S. Schleifer ’73 has been named Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year for 2019. He will be honored April 11-12 during Celebration, Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s annual conference in Ithaca.

The universitywide program gives the award annually to a Cornellian who exemplifies entrepreneurial achievement, community service and high ethical standards.

“The Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year honor is Cornell’s highest recognition for our entrepreneurial alumni. Regeneron is a powerhouse in biotech, and we are delighted that Dr. Schleifer has accepted the award,” said Zach Shulman ’87, J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

Schleifer, who majored in biological sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences with a concentration in neurobiology and behavior, founded Regeneron in 1988 and is currently its president, chief executive officer and a board member. He is also a licensed physician, certified in neurology by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Together with Dr. George Yancopoulos, founding scientist, president and chief scientific officer, Schleifer built Regeneron from a tiny startup into one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies. The company has had seven treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration and 20 investigational medicines to help patients with eye disease, heart disease, allergic and inflammatory diseases, pain, cancer, infectious diseases and rare diseases.

Schleifer has been named repeatedly to Harvard Business Review’s list of best-performing CEOs in the world, as well as to Yale School of Management’s Legends in Leadership list, and he was honored as an E&Y Life Sciences Entrepreneur of the Year. Under his leadership, Regeneron has earned top honors as the best place to work in the annual Science magazine employer ranking and is consistently ranked among the most innovative companies by Forbes magazine.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.