DURHAM – After heading up LaunchBio since its infancy in 2016, Joan Siefert Rose recently confirmed that she is stepping aside.

However, she will continue to work with the life science business organization as a strategic advisor for special projects.

WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam had the chance to find out more about her departure, and what’s next for the non-profit. Here’s what she had to say:

  • So why have you decided this is the right time to step down from LaunchBio? 

We moved all our in-person programs in seven cities (Durham, San Francisco, Cambridge, San Diego, New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles) online in March, due to Covid-19.  At first, we thought we might be able to return to live events by late summer or fall.

As the timetable for resuming live events moved into 2021, I decided that it was a natural transition time for me. I first spoke to the Board of Directors in July about stepping down as CEO in September, but remaining as a strategic consultant to work on special projects. Fortunately, we had a great leader in Becky Beattie already inside the organization. Becky was National Program Director of LaunchBio and was ready to step into the Acting CEO role, which was approved by the Board September 23.

  • What are your plans?

As I am scaling back my time at LaunchBio, I have started a new role as executive director of the National Association of Corporate Directors Research Triangle Chapter. I work with the Board to provide educational programs on topics that are important to directors of for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and work to advance the organization’s mission to elevate board performance by providing board members with practical insights through world-class education, leading-edge research, and an ever-growing network of directors.

The NACD role is the fourth nonprofit that I’ve led since moving to the Triangle in 2001: WUNC Public Radio (2001-2008), the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (2008-2016), LaunchBio (2016-2020), and now NACD Research Triangle Chapter (2020-present).

Rose doing rom an interview with Stephen Perry, founder and CEO of Kymanox in fall 2019. Photo courtesy of LaunchBio.

  • You’ve led the group since its infancy in 2016. What are some of your proudest moments? 

I was thrilled to help introduce the concept of the premier shared co-working wet lab space that BioLabs brought to downtown Durham. The Triangle had lacked a community for university spinouts to start and grow as new companies, and LaunchBio and BioLabs were able to build that collaboratively at The Chesterfield. It was exciting to see the support network for life science startups come together in one location.

In addition, I give all the credit to the marketing and design team of Margaret McNab and Caroline Okun, who created the “Larger Than Life Science” brand and look for LaunchBio, and I’m grateful to everyone who has worked to host the monthly events in Durham: Laura Pyatt, Laura Morgan, Jason Nelson, Karl Bates, Doreen Grech, plus volunteers, sponsors, speakers, community partners, and the local breweries who supplied the beer.

  • What have been some unexpected challenges as part of your tenure?

As with everyone, COVID-19 upended our plans. When we moved online, LaunchBio’s programs instantly became available to a national audience of nearly 14,000 people in the industry. Previously, our educational sessions and workshops were available only to the audience in one community. Now anyone can access our programs free of charge from anywhere in the world.

LaunchBio continues to offer excellent programs online, but many people miss the opportunity to make connections in person at our events.

  • How has the Triangle’s life sciences community evolved during your tenure? 

We have been part of an increasing globalization of the industry, which also has accelerated specialization. The Triangle and North Carolina have emerged as leaders in biomanufacturing and clinical research, while we have seen the local presence of large pharma diminish somewhat.  That makes it all the more important for national organizations like LaunchBio to connect innovators in the Triangle with the resources they need, no matter where in the world they may be located.

  • What’s next in terms of leadership for LaunchBio?

Becky Beattie is serving as Acting CEO. Becky is based in San Diego, and was the first person I hired once we started opening in new markets. She is very knowledgeable, capable, and well-liked by our team and our partners.

  • What’s in store for the organization?

Anything new on the horizon to look forward to? We announced that we will be expanding into Dallas/North Texas in 2021. This is a project that I’ve been working on for the past 18 months, and will remain part of my role as strategic advisor. We’ve also begun a series of programs on the life sciences and race, “Let’s Talk About”, led by Natasha Eldridge, our program manager in Cambridge. LaunchBio is a nimble organization that partners well with others, so I am sure there will be other announcements from Becky and the team soon.

Joan Siefert Rose stepping aside as CEO at LaunchBio