Bringing life sciences to life.

At RI Bio, we empower people to create the kinds of breakthroughs that improve the world. Our efforts support scientists and entrepreneurs in their work to advance the development and delivery of therapeutics and products that improve health, protect our climate, and nourish humanity. The results can be life-changing.

Our members and participants say it best, and here they have shared their personal vignettes of how RI Bio has made a difference.

April Arnold

April Arnold

Project Management Office, Rhode Island Quality Institute

Finding her leadership voice.

April Arnold, Manager of the Project Management Office at the Rhode Island Quality Institute, took RI Bio’s Leadership Development and Advanced Leadership Development courses to further develop her skills and grow her career. Along the way, she found the confidence to reach for her goals.

READ APRIL'S STORY

How did you get involved?
“My organization asked if I would like to participate in this class, and since it’s a leadership certificate class I thought it would be a great avenue to further my career path. The classes were great, made up of professionals with different backgrounds who were open to sharing their experiences. A major highlight was being able to network with and learn from all these talented individuals.”

What new skills did you learn?
“One of the most challenging parts of my job is holding people accountable without authority. So hearing about other people’s work experiences and the ways they’ve handled similar situations was incredibly helpful. I learned new skills for how to manage without authority in a persuasive way that didn’t come across as overbearing or aggressive. Another topic I really liked was managing upward. I appreciated that we spent time discussing the value of managing not only your own team, but different ways to manage your own superiors to achieve favorable outcomes. Those were the two most powerful takeaways for me that I have used in my daily activities. The homework assignments to use the new skills and report back were an important reminder that to be successful in management you need to observe, listen and empathize before you jump to conclusions.

“One group activity I enjoyed was talking through difficult scenarios. We were given personas, such as CEO or Business Analyst, with a little information about the person. Then we’d discuss – based on what we knew of that person – how we would respond in a given scenario as leaders. That was really insightful to me as there were perspectives brought up that I never would have thought of. Just because you may think your way of approaching a situation is the right or only way, there are actually several other ways you could approach it.”

How did you incorporate what you learned at work?
“Another skill I learned is how powerful words can be in any communication you use, and how a simple tweak of a sentence can change the tone of your message. For example, ‘I think you should’ has a negative undertone, versus saying ‘do you think it would be a good idea if.’ It’s amazing what wording like that can do to change the undertone of an email, especially now that we’re 100% remote. Being a type A-personality, I am typically very direct in my communication and try to do things as quick as possible, so I’d usually just say ok, or respond with a one-word answer. I found that shortness was not well received by my peers. Having a longer email that is not as direct and that has more conversational language around it – ‘hi hope your day’s going well, just following up on…’ – made tremendous positive steps in my relationships with senior leaders and my peers. Who knew something so small could make such a big impact!”

How did the leadership development help you?
“It has helped me think about my career future, what I want for myself, and helped me build the confidence to go for it. Additionally, I have felt validated in many ways. I have experienced some challenging situations in the past and I second-guessed my response. When I took this class, I was very honest and brought up some of those situations, the students who had similar experiences were very supportive of how I handled myself and confirmed I was managing myself in the best possible way that I could. As a manager, I gained a better understanding and patience for my staff. The class opened my eyes to the importance of loosening up the reins and letting people go off on their own and fail or succeed. Some of my staff’s and I greatest failures have helped us learn the most valuable lessons and made us better professionals because of it.

“I also recommended that one of my employees take the leadership class. I think it’s a great opportunity for anyone who wants to grow in their career. The class is now spending a lot of time on how to be successful while working remotely. My employee has learned a lot through that training, and has taught me a thing or two, which has been great!”

Do you think you will attend/sign up your team for other RI Bio webinars?
“Absolutely!”

“The Leadership Development classes have helped me think about my career future, what I want for myself, and helped me build the confidence to go for it.”

Michelle L. Dexter

Michelle L. Dexter

SHRM-SCP, Sr. Director, Human Resources & Organizational Effectiveness, Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI)

Adding an employee benefit.

The Senior Director of HR at the Rhode Island Quality Institute, Michelle Dexter uses RI Bio Leadership Development classes to augment training opportunities and keep staff engaged in their career path. She appreciates all they have learned and the new skills they have brought back to the organization.

READ MICHELLE'S STORY

How does RIBio help enhance your benefit offering?
“RIQI has benefited tremendously from RI Bio’s training and development opportunities – they have been extremely meaningful to our team since we are a smaller nonprofit. Since 2018, over a dozen staff members have participated in various programs. We work directly with our staff to best understand what new skills they want to learn, and RI Bio has proactively engaged with us; asking ‘what does your organization need and how can we create a curriculum that meets your talent development needs for your workforce?’ So they’re very interested in helping organizations like RIQI. It’s been a fantastic relationship – they take the time to listen and really assess the needs in the life sciences community.”

Who in your organization has been helped?
“The Leadership Development programs have been beneficial for many levels of our employees: our emerging leaders who are shifting from an individual contributor role to managing teams; project managers who are leading and managing projects; and our advanced leaders who are seeking to enhance their leadership and managerial skills.”

What did you think of the Leadership Development classes you sat in on?
“Mari Anne Snow as facilitator is very engaging, she gets to know each attendee personally and builds on their conversations. Over the years, I have participated in many training programs and I can tell when people gloss over, but here I could tell the participants were actively listening, engaged, and eager to learn. RI Bio has now included a 30-minute one-on-one consult with Mari Anne. Participants can privately and confidentially talk about situations they’re dealing with, which they might not have mentioned in a group setting, and she gives them tools to assist them through that process. I’ve received feedback that this has been really helpful.”

What kind of feedback did you hear from your team?
“It’s not your typical training program, the courses are very interactive, hands on, and relatable. RIQI staff have shared that they can take what they learned in the classroom, connect the dots and transfer it to their work environment immediately. Additionally, our staff are collaborating and connecting with others in the life sciences community. They are building lasting relationships with other professionals whom they otherwise may not have met. Through RI Bio they have an opportunity to see things from diverse perspectives and gain different insights from others in similar roles. They can learn from those experiences and apply it to their own situation.”

How have the classes helped your workforce, what new skills have they learned?
“The Leadership Development series enhanced our staff’s skills in many areas, such as conflict resolution, managing difficult conversations, effective communication, and understanding the importance of leadership presence whether or not you’re in a leadership role, as well as emotional intelligence and how important it is to take a step back and look at things through different lenses. For some of our newer managers, the program enhanced and improved their delegation skills. The remote worker training program included how to manage or lead in crisis; how to stay connected and engaged when you’re behind a computer screen all day; and how to stay productive and resilient which are critical skills for remote work.”

How have RI Bio classes helped the Institute?
“They have supported RIQI’s career development goals by providing opportunities to develop and enhance our staff’s skills, knowledge, and abilities to advance and be more successful in their roles. The tools they have learned help them swiftly navigate the day-to-day challenges that can take up so much of one’s time, providing more opportunity to focus on organizational and departmental goals.”

What have you enjoyed most?
“I absolutely love RI Bio’s HR Leaders Circle of Excellence roundtables and collaborating with other professionals. I enjoy connecting with others and hearing what my peers are experiencing and addressing. There is always a takeaway that I can then tailor and apply within my organization. The topics discussed thus far have focused on how we’re keeping our staff engaged and connected since the pandemic. As HR professionals and employers, we are experiencing tremendous change and we are faced with a whole new set of challenges. The roundtable brings us together to discuss these challenges and how best to navigate through them so we can be resilient and continue to foster a positive and engaged work environment for our teams. They’re only an hour long, and after the hour is up I want to keep going!”

What would you say to a friend in HR about RI Bio?
“I would say – if they are looking for an organization that can connect you with others within your space, that can provide networking opportunities, training and development opportunities, and that really takes the time to listen to you as an organization and understand what your challenges are – RI Bio is it. They are growing and becoming that go-to organization in the RI life sciences community. I truly value the relationship I have with RI Bio, and I know they have exciting new things on the horizon. I’m excited to see what they do next.”

“I absolutely love RI Bio’s HR Leaders Circle of Excellence roundtables…There is always a takeaway that I can then tailor and apply within my organization. We discuss challenges and how best to navigate through them so we can be resilient and continue to foster a positive and engaged work environment for our teams.”

Nicholas A. DaSilva, PhD

Nicholas A. DaSilva, PhD

Chief Executive Officer, Alcinous Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Launching a Start-up.

Nicholas A. DaSilva, PhD and Chief Executive Officer of start-up Alcinous Pharmaceuticals, Inc., works with Jay Round and our Entrepreneur in Residence Program. DaSilva says their support was critical to making connections and launching the drug design start-up company, which uses computer-aided drug design to improve cancer therapies.

READ NICHOLAS' STORY

Alcinous Pharmaceuticals is a drug design start-up, harnessing a novel computational approach to develop therapeutic drugs aimed at aggressive cancers such as breast and ovarian cancers. Their goal is to use computer-aided drug design to improve cancer therapies. The company was founded in 2016 by three URI PhD students.

What was your idea behind starting Alcinous?
We were motivated by the science and the prospect that we could help patients battling difficult-to-treat cancer. Alcinous, who is a character in Homer’s Odyssey, was determined to help Odysseus return home, and therein lies part of how we conduct ourselves as a company. We saw a need for a safer alternative to the currently marketed inhibitors, and while they all do work in that they are toxic to cancer cells; they are also toxic to other cells. We used computational drug design methods to help us look at a protein that is heavily utilized by cancer cells and tried to design compounds that only targeted that one protein.

How did you connect with RI Bio?
Our mentor, Patrice Milos, formerly CEO of Medley Genomics and now VP at Pine Trees Health, connected us with the RI Life Sciences community when RI Bio was formerly known as RI Bioscience Leaders. There we were introduced to Jay Round who later became the Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) for RI Bio and a vital bridge between RI Bio, the Slater Technology Fund, and the Life Science industry as a whole.

How did RI Bio help you and Alcinous Pharmaceuticals?
RI Bio’s EIR program helped us with business operations and strategy in the context of adding value for the company to position it for an acquisition or liquidity event in the future.

Specifically, they helped us with conducting an intellectual property (IP) landscape analysis that identified potential competitors and confirmed that we had a truly unique idea. IP is the lifeblood of any pharmaceutical company and part of the currency one needs to make a successful exit. A secondary landscape analysis showed us how and where we stand regarding idea novelty and how close we are to competitors so that we had the confidence to move forward with the research and fundraising.

Any weakness in protecting your IP allows others to gain a foothold and can eventually lead to a loss in exclusivity in your technology. Jay and Slater helped us with patent support, connecting us to a top law firm to carefully review our IP positions and build a layered strategy to protect and add value to our patent applications.

Additionally, Jay helped us target key mentors and potential advisors. Thanks to him, we were introduced to a number of clinicians from Women and Infants and Lifespan Cancer Institute and key opinion leaders in drug development. These clinicians not only bring their oncology/drug development expertise but also their experiences from clinical trials of competitor compounds to help address shortfalls and potentially improve our compound in later trials. Our key opinion leaders serve as guides in the drug development process who in turn connect us with Contract Research Organizations and other expert consultants; and who provide Alcinous with the know-how to drive our research forward. We also relied on strategic expertise from RI Bio mentors and Jay to select which grants to apply for given the current data and support, and how to best craft the overall grant.

RI Bio has been an essential partner and resource in helping us establish a strong foundation, manage operations, raise capital and create a team of advisors to help advance the company. Long-term, our goal is to get to a point where we can partner with a well-established pharma company to access the resources it takes to get to a clinical trial, and RI Bio has been helpful in getting us there.

What has been the best part of working with the EIR program?
It was critical to have an entrepreneur like Jay on board. Having another like-minded individual who helps keep the interest of the company in mind has been immensely supportive. Having a network that could also help define and grow the company has also been highly useful.

“It was critical to have an entrepreneur like Jay on board. Having another like-minded individual who helps keep the interest of the company in mind has been immensely supportive.”

What’s your story?

If you’ve been impacted by an RI Bio class, event, or forum, let us know how we’ve helped you.