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.

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

“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.

Commercialization Fellowship Changes Hunter Adams’ Path

Hunter Adams, fourth year Ph.D. student in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell, really likes hardware. “There is something indisputable about hardware,” says Adams. “You can run simulations all day without a real, unarguable end result. With hardware, it either works or it doesn’t.”

When Adams first came to Cornell in 2011 for his undergraduate studies, his primary interest was in particle physics. He declared as a physics major and then became impatient with the pace of experimental particle physics. “I found out that I really want a much quicker pace.” This dual desire for testable hardware and a faster experimental timeline led Adams to discover engineering.

“As a physics major at Cornell, you have a lot of freedom when it comes to taking classes outside of the department,” explains Adams. “You get to choose a number classes as a “concentration” within the physics major. Rather than picking an existing concentration, I created my own—spacecraft engineering.” Adams connected with Mason Peck, associate professor in Cornell’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and former chief technologist at NASA, and began working in Peck’s Space Systems Design Studio. “I still feel so lucky that I found Mason and got into his lab,” says Adams.

Adams spent one summer working at SpaceX, where he noticed that everyone doing the job he eventually wanted to all had their Ph.D.s. “That pretty much decided it for me,” says Adams. “I didn’t really consider going anywhere else for my doctorate.” Adams knew he wanted to build a complete hardware system from start to finish. He didn’t know exactly what it would be, but he was determined that it would be useful. “I am deeply motivated by finding solutions to problems that are of immediate practical use,” says Adams.

Ph.D. Commercialization Fellow Hunter AdamsAdams talked through his ideas with Mason Peck, and together they arrived at a project that seemed to be the right size.The project they came up with is called Monarch. It is based on a design started by another of Peck’s graduate students six years ago. The original idea was for small (roughly two-inch square) satellites that could be deployed in a swarm to gather and send data. Under Adams, the original idea has morphed into slightly larger square sensors that take advantage of recent improvements in processing, tiny solar cells, GPS capabilities, and lighter substrate materials. Each Monarch has a GPS, an accelerometer, a magnetometer, a gyroscope, light sensors, a thermometer, a processor, and a radio transmitter.

“I prototype the entire system on a lab bench,” says Adams. “And once I’m convinced it works I’ll use a CAD program to make the same circuit on a computer. I send the files off and have boards back within a week. Then we test the boards. It usually takes a few iterations to get it right.” Sometime during Adams’ third year working on Monarch, he and Peck agreed that they had “gotten it right” and they began to focus on ways the Monarch could be put to use. They had a few ideas and weren’t sure which to pursue.

At this point, Professor Peck sent Adams a blank application for Cornell Engineering’s Commercialization Fellowship. Adams was selected as one of six Cornell Engineering Ph.D. student Commercialization Fellows for 2018. Surprisingly, (even to Adams, himself), one of the commercialization ideas that seems to hold the most promise does not involve rockets or space at all.

“I spent much of the summer visiting vineyards and speaking with vineyard managers to learn how they make decisions,” says Adams with a somewhat bemused look on his face. “I went to California, the Finger Lakes, and New Zealand.” One requirement of the Commercialization Fellowship is that Ph.D. students do “customer discovery interviews” with at least 100 potential customers. “It’s not to talk about your technology, but instead to learn how they make decisions and what they would find useful.”

What Adams discovered through this process is that the information his Monarchs could collect and transmit would be valuable to vineyard managers. The Monarchs would not be sent to space and released into orbit. Instead, they would be placed strategically throughout a vineyard to gather hyper-local data on light, moisture, temperature and other factors that would allow vineyard managers to better manage their resources and maximize their harvests.

“This fellowship has been so valuable,” says Adams. “Through the customer discovery process I have identified the hardware I need to build. As someone who is committed to making useful stuff, I’m now fully convinced that this is useful.” Adams hopes to build the final version of the Monarch this semester while piecing together all the other parts that go into starting a business. “I intend to finish my Ph.D. by May and then apply to the Small Business Innovation Program (SBIR).” The SBIR is a U.S. government program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization.

“This has been a seriously unexpected turn in my degree path—my family is pretty amused by it all,” says Adams, with that same bemused smile. “I am excited to pursue this full-time.”

So You Want to Be an Entrepreneur?

By Donnie Hampton and Earl Roach III, Two-Year MBAs ’19

This series is intended to help you maximize your time at Johnson as an aspiring entrepreneur. We came to business school to gain the skills necessary to grow as an entrepreneurs, and we are excited to provide additional insights on the resources and opportunities available at Cornell.

During our first-year at Johnson, we worked on multiple business ideas through two courses, participated in five hackathons, attended more than five entrepreneur-focused networking events in the community, and joined a variety of entrepreneurial clubs at Johnson. Building on our experience, we encourage you to consider the ideas presented in this series to support your Cornell journey as an entrepreneur.

Step 1: Choose courses that empower you to work on an actual business idea

Working on your own business idea in class is a great way to optimize your learning and help you make tangible progress with advisors as you improve your idea.

Johnson offers more than 20 different entrepreneurial courses, with new courses being added every semester. Given the finite amount of time Johnson students have available while completing their graduate studies at Cornell, we have listed some of the more popular courses that allow you to work on a business idea to help put your classroom learning into practice.

To read the full article, click here:



Cornell Alumnus Nick Beyer ’00 Talks About Leadership, Impact, and Coffee

When he founded Saxbys in 2005, Nick Bayer didn’t just want to compete in a crowded market for caffeinated brews. Bayer wanted his company to stand out for its social impact. Guided by a mission to “make life better,” Saxbys grew from a corner cafe into a successful chain stretching from Georgia to New Hampshire. A longtime Entrepreneur in Residence at Cornell, Bayer seeks to nurture the ambitions and skills of upcoming entrepreneurs. Saxbys runs a pioneering program to empower young leaders by putting students in charge of cafes on college campuses.

Nick Beyer

What does Saxbys do, and what problem does it solve?
Saxbys strives to make life better. We are a hospitality and social impact company first and foremost, with our efforts primarily rooted in education and opportunity. We’re also a product company. We used to say “coffee company,” but now Saxbys has evolved to become much more than that. It’s the hospitality and the ability to provide a welcoming space for the community to gather and connect that defines us.

To read the full article, click Saxbys founder Nick Bayer ’00 serves up coffee with social impact

Ithaca Named One of the Most Innovative Cities in the U.S.

(This story appeared in the USA Today newspaper on Wednesday, November 14, 2018. It was written by John Harrington and Michael B. Sauter)

As America’s economy continues to shift from heavy industry to technology, certain areas of the country have gained a reputation for innovation.

Many factors contribute to differences in innovation activity in U.S. cities, including the presence of research institutions, efforts by local government and chambers of commerce, access to venture capital, and the ability of leadership to read the tea leaves of the future.

24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the 25 most innovative cities in the United States based on data obtained from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the year 2015, the most recent year that data is available. 24/7 Wall St. listed the metropolitan areas with the highest number of patents issued per 100,000 city residents.

Many of the metropolitan areas on this list are home to major research institutions, as well as some of the nation’s largest companies in STEM fields, both of which tend to be the primary producers of patented technology.

Ithaca was ranked at #13.

• Patents granted in 2015 per 100,000 residents: 133.4
• Patents granted in 2015: 1,638
• Population: 104,926
• Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 52.2 percent

Ithaca, with a population of about 104,000, is the third smallest city on our list. It is home to Cornell University and Ithaca College. Cornell has created the Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement that supports economic progress through innovation and entrepreneurship. As part of that mission, the initiative has backed programs such as Rev: Ithaca Startup Works and the Southern Tier Startup Alliance. Ithaca College hosts an annual educational technology day that draws national and local vendors. Included among the vendors at the most recent event was specialty glass and ceramics company Corning Inc., whose headquarters is 35 miles southwest of Ithaca.

For full list, click on this link.