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Stanford ChEM-H Entrepreneurship at the Chemistry-Biology Interface

The winning team from 2015, Team Lyseia, strategizes tests of their new antibiotics. 

L.A. Cicero

Entrepreneurship at the Chemistry-Biology Interface is for undergraduate students interested in understanding how their knowledge of chemistry and biology can enable the discovery and development of therapeutic products for unmet clinical needs. 

Program Description

Participating students will work with a student team to develop a technical and business plan for a new biotechnology company over the course of the fall quarter. If selected, students will be placed into 4 teams of 4 people. Each team will be assigned a mentor to help them choose a suitable project and to guide their  scientific and business plan development during the course of the program. Mentors will include local biotechnology professionals and entrepreneurs. 

At least one student from each team will attend a summer kickoff meeting (in-person or by video conference) to learn more about the program timeline, expectations, and project selection process. During fall quarter, all students will be expected to attend weekly evening meetings. Meetings will be approximately 90 minutes. Meeting topics will include presentations from the mentors, as well as student team pitches. In addition to weekly meetings, students can expect ~5 hrs/student/week in individual and group preparation work. 

At the end of fall quarter, each team will present t
heir business plan pitch to the mentors, local entrepreneurs, and select members of the ChEM-H community. The winning team will be provided a grant to enable implementation of the early stages of their project plans and will be expected to work on their project part-time during winter and spring 2019 and full-time during summer 2019. 

Program Outline

This is a current outline of the fall 2018 program meetings. Meeting topics are subject to change.

  1. Week of September 24: Deconstructing the pitch (mentor presentation)
  2. Week of October 1: Capital markets and corporate perspectives on value (mentor presentation)
  3. Week of October 8: Connecting the dots (4 teams)
  4. Week of October 15: Pitch 0 (4 teams)
  5. Week of October 22: Drug development process, biotechnology team, financial planning (mentor presentation)
  6. Week of October 29: Refined pitch (2 teams) 
  7. Week of November 5: Refined pitch (2 teams)
  8. Week of November 12: Semi-final pitch (4 teams)
  9. Week of November 19: Break for Thanksgiving
  10. Week of November 26: No formal meeting: meet with mentors, refine pitch
  11. Week of December 3: Final pitch (4 teams)

Program Mentors

Adrian Gill, Ph.D. - Vice President, Chemistry & CMC - Revolution Medicines

Adrian aspires to not only be a great medicinal chemistry leader, but a leader of great medicinal chemists. Adrian has over 20 years of experience in roles of increasing scientific responsibility and across a diverse range of disease areas in both large pharma and biotech environments, having worked previously for Roche, Astex Therapeutics and more recently, AstraZeneca, where he has been the head of medicinal chemistry for the CVMD iMed.

During his career to date, Adrian has been heavily involved in the identification of over 15 clinical candidates across a variety of disease areas including AT7519 and AT9283, which are in Phase 2 development for a range of human cancers, and AZD4017 for the treatment of diabetes and obesity. Adrian was also a core member of the cell cycle kinase alliance between Astex and Novartis that ultimately led to the discovery of LEE001 (ribociclib), the CDK4/6 inhibitor recently approved by the FDA for the treatment of HR+/HER2- advanced breast cancer. In addition, Adrian has authored over 20 publications in peer-reviewed journals and is a named inventor on over 30 small molecule patent applications. Adrian received his Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry from the University of Sussex, U.K., where he focused on synthetic methodology towards the total synthesis of rapamycin, and has a bachelor’s degree in applied chemistry from the University of Salford, U.K.

Zach Sweeney, Ph.D. - Head of Therapeutic Discovery, Denali

Zach Sweeney

Zach Sweeney leads the Therapeutic Discovery group at Denali. Previously, he was a Director of Global Discovery Chemistry and Head of Analytical Chemistry at Novartis Emeryville. Zach also worked as a scientist at Genentech and Roche. His project teams have contributed to the identification of clinical candidates for the treatment of Parkinson's disease, inflammatory disorders, and infectious disease. Zach's teams have also authored over 40 patent applications and 30 scientific articles. He graduated with a degree in chemistry from Stanford University, received a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University.


Cathy Tralau-Stewart, Ph.D. - Senior Alliance Director, Takeda Stanford AIM

Cathy Tralau-Stewart

Cathy has many years’ experience of leading drug discovery programs from target validation through to patients. She is a Pharmacologist and has been involved in and led teams, which created over 13 marketed products and many candidate compounds (including Advair, Flixonase, Flixotide, Flovent, Allermist, Bosatria, Ariflo, Zantac (extensions), Avodart, Zofran, Relovar/Breo, Anoro, Avamys). She completed her PhD at University College London and spent nearly 20 years in pre-clinical to clinical drug discovery at GlaxoSmithKline. For the last 10 years Cathy has been leading the development of academic -industry drug discovery at Imperial College London and University of California San Francisco (UCSF). At UCSF Cathy led the Innovative and successful Catalyst translational program, supporting the development of novel therapeutic, diagnostic, digital health and device products to exits such as licenses, start-up company formation and partnerships. In April 2018, Cathy joined Takeda to lead the development of the Takeda Stanford AIM based at Stanford.

Cathy is also a Visiting Scholar at Stanford ChEM-H and Adjunct Associate Professor of Bioengineering & Therapeutics at UCSF. Enabling the translation of novel science to patients has become Cathy’s mission.

Please check back for more mentor bios.

Information for Prospective Applicants


Applicants must be Stanford undergraduates who have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA. 

Program Requirements

  • Attend a 90-minute weekly meeting during the fall (typically scheduled in the evening) 
  • Spend 5-10 hours/week deveoping your project with your team
  • Give a final pitch with your team at the end of the program
  • If awarded a grant: commit to working full-time on your project during summer 2019


Applications for Fall 2018 are closed. Please check back in Spring 2019 for the Fall 2019 program.

Applications must be submitted through the online portal at and will require the following:

  1. Resume - 2 pages max (PDF)
  2. Unofficial transcript (PDF)
  3. Personal statement describing who you are, why you want to participate, and what credentials you bring to the program in no more than 1 page (PDF)

Any questions may be directed to the Stanford ChEM-H Scientific Program Manager, Dr. Katherine Alfieri,

Program Participants in the News

Stanford undergrads win Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for work combating antibiotic resistance

A team of Stanford ChEM-H undergraduates won a national prize for their work developing a new antibiotic to combat the growing threat of multidrug-resistant bacteria.


Young Inventors Work On Secret Proteins To Thwart Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

NPR interviewed ChEM-H undergraduate students who have started a company to tackle antibiotic resistant bacteria.


Stanford undergrads cook up a biotech startup to develop new antibiotics for drug-resistant superbugs

Stanford undergraduates receive a grant from ChEM-H to develop and test new antibiotics.


What Students Are Saying

"This felt like the most 'real' thing I have done with my extracurricular involvements at Stanford. This program taught me how to bring value to an innovative concept."

"This program helped me see the bigger picture of how drugs are developed from concept to market."

"It's completely different from working on something for a class!"


Dr. Katherine Alfieri

Stanford ChEM-H Scientific Program Manager