Cal State LA launches LA BioStart, a five-week training program for bioscience entrepreneurs

August 3, 2017

By Margie Low | Cal State LA News Service

The LA BioStart training program for bioscience entrepreneurs is now underway at California State University, Los Angeles.

A five-week program funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, LA BioStart provides start-up companies training, mentoring and business knowledge essential to starting and sustaining bioscience ventures. LA BioStart is a collaboration between Cal State LA, the Biocom Institute, and the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator.

“We can’t wait to see what discoveries are on the horizon from LA BioStart’s highly distinguished inaugural cohort of fellows,” said Cal State LA’s Executive Vice President Jose A. Gomez, who also chairs LA BioSpace, the university’s bioscience incubator. “We appreciate the leadership of the Biocom Institute, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, and other partners that helped make this program a reality.”

Through programs such as LA BioStart, Cal State LA encourages the growth of the bioscience industry in Southern California.  

“Bioscience holds tremendous promise for our region,” said Cal State LA President William A. Covino. “We’re proud to support those who are creating new technologies and new companies in this growing industry.”

The LA BioStart training, which takes place at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, is offered at no cost and led by top industry experts. Topics include business fundamentals, financing models, industrial research and development, regulatory affairs, quality systems, clinical trials, leadership skills, and communication strategies.

“It is exciting to see highly motivated boot camp participants gaining skills and competencies that are outside their traditional fields of training,” said Howard Xu, who is the director of LA BioStart and a professor of microbiology at Cal State LA.

Members of the inaugural cohort of fellows and team members are:

Arnold Suwarnasarn
Arnold Suwarnasarn is an entrepreneur interested in 3D printing and connected preventative health through in-home sensor screening and neuroscience. Suwarnasarn holds a B.A. in biology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, a Ph.D. in bioengineering from UCLA, and a MBA from USC.




Evgeny Bondarenko
Evgeny Bondarenko is a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA interested in starting a company to create convolutional neural networks for the analysis of histological preparations in neuroscience research. Bondarenko holds a Bachelor of Psychology from the University of Newcastle and a Ph.D. in human physiology from the University of Newcastle. He is joined by team member Marcos Otero-Garcia, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher.



Gayle Boxx
Gayle Boxx is the founder, president and CEO of Aukera, Inc. Aukera has developed manufacturing and packaging technologies for the vault nanoparticle that make it an affordable and effective nanodelivery platform. Boxx holds a B.S. in biology from CSU Chico, a M.S. in microbiology from Cal State Long Beach, and a Ph.D. in microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics from UCLA. She is joined by team member Jan Mrazek, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Aukera.



John Chi
John Chi is the founder and CEO of Synova Life Sciences. Synova is commercializing a device to harvest stem cells from adipose tissue for use as a regenerative therapy for joints. Chi holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from Stanford University and a Master of Biotechnology from Cal State LA.




Paul Bryson
Paul Bryson is co-founding a company with USC Professor Pin Wang, focusing on cancer treatment. Bryson holds an A.B. in biology from Princeton University, and a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from Stanford University.




Preet Chaudhary
Preet Chaudhary is co-founding a company focusing on cancer treatment. Chaudhary earned a MD from Delhi University and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Chicago.




QiJin Xu
Qijin (Kevin) Xu is the founder and CEO of Xcell Unity Biotech Co., focusing on cancer detection, imaging and therapy, including immunotherapy. Xu holds a B.S. in geology and chemistry from Peking University, M.S. in protein chemistry from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and a Ph.D. in molecular, cellular and developmental biology from the University of Michigan. He is joined by partners Yingduan Cheng, Zheng (Alex) Fu, Chunying Song, and Weidong Xiong.



Robert Gellibolian
Robert Gellibolian is the founder of CellectGen, which is developing a saliva collection and processing device for point-of-care diagnoses and screenings for diseases. Gellibolian holds a biochemistry from UCLA and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Texas A&M University. He is joined by partner Adam Markaryan, co-founder and senior scientist at CellectGen.



Steven Flanagan
Steven Flanagan is developing improved Flavivirus vaccines. Flanagan holds a B.S. in biology from Caltech and a Ph.D. in biology from UC San Diego.




Xin Wen
Xin Wen is developing antifreeze polypeptides as a preservative for temperature sensitive protein-based therapeutics or consumer products. Wen holds a B.S. in chemistry from Nanjing University and a M.S. and Ph.D. in biophysical chemistry from the University of Rochester. She is a Cal State LA professor and her team members, Rebecca Vargas and Tania Garcia, are Cal State LA students.



Young-Kwon Hong
Young-Kwon Hong is an associate professor of surgery at Keck School of Medicine of USC. He is developing improved methodology for endothelial cell culture and creating cell lines. Hong holds a B.S. in agricultural chemistry from Korea University and a Ph.D. in microbiology from UC Davis.



Photo: Above, right to left, Professor Xin Wen and her research team members, Tania Garcia and Rebecca Vargas. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA) Portraits: LA BioStart's inaugural cohort of fellows. (Credit: Ty Washington/Cal State LA)

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit