Press Release

June 20, 2023

The Chicago Biomedical Consortium Announces the Next Class of CBC Entrepreneurial Fellows 

Program continues to inspire and coach promising local biomedical talent and support the growing life science industry in Chicagoland 

CHICAGO, June 20, 2023 – The Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC), an organization funded by the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust to stimulate biomedical discovery and collaboration among Chicago’s major research universities – the University of Illinois Chicago, University of Chicago, and Northwestern University, has announced the spring 2023 class of the CBC Entrepreneurial Fellows (CBC-EFs). The CBC-EF program identifies and mentors a talented group of next-generation bio-entrepreneurial minded junior researchers, who will gain real-world experience by helping Chicago’s university researchers develop academic science into biomedical applications. 

Chicago’s innovation infrastructure is top-notch with three R1 universities – or universities classified by the Carnegie Institute with high research activity, two national labs, seven medical schools, over 75 incubators and accelerators and almost half a billion dollars in 2021 biotechnology venture funding1. Chicago’s life sciences ecosystem is geographically, academically, and demographically diverse – such a multifaceted talent pool is necessary to create new solutions to old challenges. Each year, over 26,000 STEM degrees are conferred by Chicago’s higher education institutions, the fourth most in the nation1. With its strong infrastructure, it is no surprise that Chicago has become a burgeoning hot spot for life science innovation. The goal of the CBC-EFs is to help staff this growing ecosystem. 

This second CBC-EF cohort, following in the footsteps of 2022’s cohort, was recruited through a nationwide search for a diverse array of graduating PhD scientists.  Each of the CBC Entrepreneurial Fellows expressed a strong interest and passion for taking an active and central role in building Chicago’s biotech hub and turning Chicago’s early academic life sciences research into biomedical applications that will catalyze Chicago’s biomedical ecosystems, and drive Chicago’s economic development.  

CBC-EFs receive a full-time, paid, two-year fellowship position that affords them extensive professional development, career development, and a curriculum grounded in the fundamentals of early-stage drug development and the business of biotech. CBC-EFs work with a network of industry mentors including venture capitalists, biotech executives, Chicago-area entrepreneurs, member institution tech transfer offices, and senior advisors. This network, combined with guidance from Michelle Hoffmann PhD, Executive Director, and Elizabeth McMath PhD, Senior Director, helps the CBC-EFs evaluate technologies sourced from commercially promising research projects from the three CBC member universities. The best of these projects will receive up to $250,000 in funding through the CBC Accelerator Award to advance the science.  

“UIC is committed to helping our scientists translate their ideas into medicines through our Proof of Concept Awards.  The CBC has been a wonderful collaborator by partnering their EFs with our faculty to provide guidance, strategic feedback and follow-on funding after the POC awards,” said Joanna Groden PhD, Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Illinois Chicago. 

Nathan Gianneschi PhD, Northwestern Professor, has received CBC funding to advance translational research programs that have given real world learning opportunities to the EFs. “The CBC-EFs are exceptionally well-trained to think rigorously about translational science and to design a development strategy. They also provide strategic and operational help needed to move the programs forward.  CBC-EFs have helped us think critically and directionally about our academic translational science and science directions at our company, Grove Biopharma.”   

The 2023 cohort includes: 

  • Ahmed Disouky is a patient-centered, collaborative, and highly motivated scientist-pharmacist with strong experience in neuroscience biomedical research. Ahmed earned his Pharmacy degree from the School of Pharmacy at Al-Azhar University in Cairo in 2016 where his research was focused on medicinal chemistry and drug development. Following Pharmacy school, Ahmed joined the biomedical sciences PhD program at the University of Illinois Chicago where he worked under the supervision of Dr. Orly Lazarov. While working on his PhD, Ahmed studied the extent of hippocampal neurogenesis in Alzheimer’s disease patients and its impact on their learning and memory. After successfully completing his PhD, Ahmed joined the CBC as an entrepreneurial fellow where he aims to close the knowledge gap between the bench and the pharmaceutical market and build a strong biotech ecosystem in the Chicagoland area. 
  • Owen Shelton is a neuroscientist who has studied how the nervous system generates movement. Owen completed his thesis in the lab of Dr. Vicki Tysseling at Northwestern University where he used a mouse model of spinal cord injury to better understand how spasm presentation varies across populations with different SCI severities. With the CBC, Owen seeks to better understand the commercialization of science to move Chicagoland towards more equitable health outcomes. 
  • Sonal Rangnekar is a nanomaterials researcher, award-winning science communicator, and community leader. She earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Berkeley and is completing a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering in Dr. Mark Hersam’s group at Northwestern University. Her PhD research has focused on the development of nanomaterial inks for electronic devices, and she has published several papers on printed graphene biosensors for detecting small molecules, proteins, and pathogens. Driven to work at the intersection of science and business,  Sonal was a VC Fellow with Bay Area-based Fusion Fund. At the CBC, Sonal looks forward to building out resources for budding biotech entrepreneurs in Chicagoland. 
  • Rachel Wallace is an immunoengineer whose expertise lies at the intersection of immunology, materials science and nanotechnology. She earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan and a PhD in Molecular Engineering in Dr. Jeff Hubbell’s lab at the University of Chicago. Throughout her PhD she leveraged not only scientific but business resources through the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and as a Fellow at Northpond Ventures to gain skills in deep tech venture due diligence and evaluating technologies for their commercialization potential.

The CBC Entrepreneurial Fellows are supported by a network of external partners including P33, a nonprofit focused on driving inclusive growth for Chicago’s tech sector.  “Chicago is a world-class city with world-class science, and we need to make sure we are drawing new PhD talent to our fledgling biotech businesses.  The CBC is working to not only attract PhDs, but to train them in early science commercialization and the business of biotech – these CBC-EFs are going to be future bio-entrepreneurs,” said Brad Henderson, CEO of P33.  P33 partners with the CBC to source diverse bio-entrepreneurs – cohosting the 2023 BIPOC in Biotech Conference sponsored by Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Walder Foundation, and Cresa Global – and then integrates the CBC-EFs into their diverse founder initiatives like TechRise. 

About Chicago Biomedical Consortium
The mission of the Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC) is to stimulate collaboration among scientists at Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, the University of Illinois Chicago and other Chicagoland institutions to accelerate discovery and expand the Chicago based life sciences ecosystem in order to transform life science research into biomedical applications, create inclusive Chicagoland opportunities, and improve the health of humankind. 

The CBC was launched in 2006 with a generous annual grant award from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. To date, more than $76 million has been invested into CBC initiatives to promote Chicago’s biomedical community resulting in more than 373 awards granted, over 2,715 research papers published, six national research centers established and over $920 million dedicated to research funding.  

Learn more about the CBC at 

About P33
P33 is a privately funded non-profit focused on driving inclusive, global tech and innovation leadership for Chicagoland. P33’s work is anchored in deep research and driven by a need to unlock the potential of the digital age to solve some of the toughest problems facing Chicago, such as equitable access to digital careers, talent retention, deep science commercialization and gaps in our growth stage startup ecosystem.  Officially launched in 2019, P33 is co-chaired by Penny Pritzker, former Secretary of Commerce and founder and chairman of PSP Partners; Chris Gladwin, CEO and Cofounder of Ocient and Cleversafe; and Kelly Welsh, Managing Director of Crab Tree Advisory. 

Additional News Coverage:

Coverage by UIC Today, published on June 23, 2023 by Rob Mitchum