The Bioscience & Entrepreneurial Inclusion Initiative strengthens the region’s bioscience ecosystem by identifying high-potential, talented women & minority bioscience entrepreneurs and providing a systematic pathway for them to create viable high-growth ventures.

Previous Events



Thank you to our generous sponsors for the support of VISION 2017. 

Because of you, more than 200 St. Louis entrepreneurs, students and small business champions were inspired by the journey of Dr. Lonnie Johnson, and left with significant resources and networks of support to build viable STEM-based ventures in St. Louis.

85% attendees are women & minorities.

100% would attend again & recommend VISION to friends or future entrepreneurs.

94% made meaningful contacts to help their business.

“I love the mission of your conference. I also appreciate that you've moved the location over the last three years to be more inclusive of and accessible to the broader St. Louis community!”

“Loved being able to ask questions and learn more about running a technical business as a non-tech owner.”
“I benefited beyond [my expectations] when introduced to the concept of mapping your business concept without the traditional business plan as a blue print.”


What would be possible if St. Louis proactively built race and gender equity into its ecosystem of organizations, investors and mentors supporting early-stage, tech-based entrepreneurs? 

On November 30th at 8 am, join members of St. Louis’ entrepreneurship ecosystem for the first-ever regional summit on race and gender equity in early-stage, tech-based entrepreneurship.  Entrepreneurs, support organizations, funders and investors are invited to imagine and commit to actions that build race and gender equity into St. Louis’ existing entrepreneur ecosystem.  The summit will feature brief, thought-provoking presentations, interactive activities and solution-building discussions to launch a year of action in 2018.

This event launches St. Louis’ Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective – an intentional effort of regional entrepreneur support organizations, funders and company founders working to ensure that systems built to support new entrepreneurs operate equitably, especially related to race and gender.  The St. Louis’ Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective is a winner of the Kauffman Inclusion Challenge, and one of the only efforts across the country that is focused on building equity in entrepreneurship ecosystems at a regional level, making the work we do together a potential blueprint for the rest of the country. The effort has benefitted greatly from the work of the following organizations: Arch Grants, BioSTL, Brazen Global, CET (Center for Emerging Technologies), Cortex, ITEN, Missouri Small Business Development Center, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, St. Louis Makes, St. Louis Regional Chamber, T-Rex and Venture Café St. Louis.

Night with the CIO at Harris Stowe State University

In October, the St. Louis Chapter of BDPA hosted its annual Night with the CIO at Harris Stowe State University. Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore, Director at BioSTL moderated the night’s panel discussion. The night’s panelists were Mary Heger, CIO at Ameren Services, and Lina Young, CIO at Peabody Energy.

The evening started with light appetizers and networking. There were several students in attendance from Harris Stowe’s school of business, as well as, STEM representatives of multiple disciplines. The students came ready with their questions and those currently in STEM fields were more than happy to help with their guidance. The room buzzed as people went from table to table and person to person greeting old friends, as well as, making new associates. The excitement and energy was palpable. It took a couple of announcements to get everyone’s attention to navigate to the room where the panel discussion would begin.

The discussion itself was a robust and intriguing blend of experiences, trends, projections, and education. Our moderator, being a leader in the STEM field herself, provided the panelists with relevant and thought provoking topics to discuss, as well as, provided her own experience and insight. The theme of the discussion was enabling digital thought leadership and the guidance was given to all to understand your business and find solutions for gaps where you are.  

Both Lina and Mary provided wonderful tips and guidance on how to navigate the STEM fields, as well as, how to grow within those respective fields. The audience listened intently during the discussion, actively participated during Q&A, and displayed gratitude as the event concluded. BDPA members and guests represented well at this event. The number of attendees was up from last year’s count and would hope to see this trend continue.

We are grateful to Harris Stowe for allowing us to use their beautiful facilities and hosting the event. We are also appreciative of our moderator Dr. Watkins-Moore for her excellent facilitation. Furthermore, we owe our gratitude to our panelists Mary Heger and Lina Young for their enlightenment and education.


Upcoming Events

Check back soon 


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Entrepreneurially Thinking Podcast

Recently mentioned by the St. Louis Regional Chamber as a podcast to check out, Entrepreneurially Thinking is a must-listen for anyone interested in the St. Louis startup ecosystem. With their own special brand of humor, sincerity, and inquisitiveness, Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore and Christy Maxfield explore what it means to think entrepreneurially. The best and brightest trailbrazers and thought leaders from throughout the St. Louis region are in the studio to share insights that can unlock your personal potential for creativity, innovation, and experimentation. 

Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or Spreaker.
Produced in collaboration with CET and RareGem Productions.

We Are Now in Season 5.
Check out our latest episodes HERE.


Kauffman Foundation News

In 2017, the Inclusion Initiative has been growing our programming to build awareness about opportunities in bioscience, engage individuals in learning more about those opportunities, and build connections to resources for underrepresented populations.

As proud winners of the inaugural Kauffman Inclusion Challenge from the prestigious Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, BioSTL has been able to help the region to do important work through the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective Impact Initiative. We intend to transform the way St. Louis supports underrepresented populations and serve as a model for replication in similar regions across the country.


About the Bioscience & Entrepreneurial Inclusion Initiative

In 2008, BioSTL began organizing on-going collaboration aimed at creating a network of organizations and individuals committed to collaborative action that increases inclusion within biosciences.  The effort began with meetings of a small group of CEO-level community leaders and has since evolved to include 85+ leaders and practitioners from organizations throughout the community.  In 2014, BioSTL began programming a series of activities along a pathway: build awareness about opportunities in bioscience; engage individuals in learning more about those opportunities; provide training to support an individual’s engagement in biosciences; and, finally, build connections to resources to help move individuals toward employment in bioscience or starting a new bioscience venture.

  • Awareness-raising activities about bioscience entrepreneurship: Introducing St. Louis innovation opportunities across bioscience, IT and advanced manufacturing sectors, and providing training around unique considerations for bioscience ventures through the VISION symposium and other events. 
  • Programming to expose high school students to bioscience, food science and agriculture biotech through the EXPLORE externship program with Diversity Awareness Partnership
  • Exposing community members to local examples of bioscience entrepreneurs in a causal setting through “Evening With” conversations
  • Strengthening new businesses through providing follow on advising to select graduates of CET’s Square1 programing
  • Convening regional leaders to identify opportunities to further support entrepreneurs from ideation to implementation to scalability of a business idea
Key Accomplishments 
  • 450+ people participated in informational events that raised awareness among women & minority professionals of opportunities in the region’s innovation economy (including bioscience, technology and advanced manufacturing). Participants were connected to 34 entrepreneur and workforce support organizations 
  • 150 female and students of color from middle and high schools across the region have participated in hands-on externships in the areas of bioscience and agriculture with corporations and innovation-focused nonprofit organizations
  • BioSTL has awarded $25,000+ to high-potential, high-growth women & minority-owned startups
  • Three times a year, BioSTL convenes representatives from 140 partner organizations to share best practices, align activities and strengthen efforts to build a wholly inclusive innovation ecosystem in St. Louis
  • BioSTL received a $420,000 Kauffman Foundation grant aimed at helping women and minority entrepreneurs.

The collaborative spirit among BioSTL stakeholders has proved a distinguishing characteristic of St. Louis' bioscience cluster and is an integral component of the Inclusion Initiative. Partners in promoting inclusion in entrepreneurship are:

  • Center for Emerging Technologies through the expansion of entrepreneurial training programs; 
  • Diversity Awareness Partnership through EXPLORE programs for high school students 
  • KWS, MilliporeSigma, Venture Cafe and Dupont through their support of expaning EXPLORE programming for EXPLORE Ag Bio, EXPLORE Bioscience and EXPLORE Food Science
  • ITEN and St. Louis Makes through collaboration and co-hosting VISION
Program Director

BioSTL has engaged Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore as Director of Bioscience & Entrepreneurial Inclusion to guide the program. Cheryl will bolster existing collaborations with organizations across the St. Louis region as well as seek new partnerships to promote inclusion in entrepreneurship as well as in the region’s bioscience talent and workforce pipelines. 

Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore began her career as a physician, then added an M.B.A. from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and developed business leadership experience by managing teams in large global and start-up organizations in the life science industry. Cheryl is CEO of UPstart Innovations, LLC and Accelerated Rehabilitation Technologies, LLC, both start-up companies focused in the bioscience technology market. Most recently, Cheryl served as an Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR) with the BioGenerator, supporting the formation and growth of new bioscience startups. She concurrently served as a mentor for tech entrepreneurs with the Capital Innovators accelerator program as well as mentored entrepreneurs in Washington University’s Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. Previously, in her role as Vice President and General Manager, Cheryl led the Integrated Biomarker Solutions business and prior to that role headed the Analytics Division for the North American market of EMD Millipore, the U.S. subsidiary of Merck KGaA. Prior to Merck, Cheryl managed the U.S. marketing operations for Swedish-based biotech start-up company, Biora Inc.


The St. Louis Bioscience Inclusion Initiative launched with early meetings of CEO-level community and business leaders and has evolved to include 81 leaders and practitioners from organizations throughout the community. Together, the group aims “to create a network of organizations and individuals committed to collaborative action that increases inclusion within the biosciences here in St. Louis.”

Meetings of the Bioscience Inclusion Network have raised awareness in St. Louis about inclusion in the biosciences and spawned programmatic connections between meeting participants that further extend science-related opportunities to the diverse populations of the region.  By bringing together organizations from across the region, each focused on different facets of the biosciences (from k-12 education to start-up companies and entrepreneur support organizations to major corporations), the conversations have helped to identify the variety of disparate efforts occurring in the region and build connections among organizations who otherwise had never partnered together.  Examples of collaborations occurring from the Bioscience Inclusion Initiative conversation include:

  • The Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a $1.8 million multi-agency federal grant (matched by $700,000 from BioSTL) that includes a component specifically targeted for outreach to and engagement of minority—and women—owned businesses interested in starting a bioscience company or providing products or services to bioscience companies
  • Pfizer’s summer teachers program, which utilized relationships from the group to recruit minority teachers and primarily minority school districts to participate in their summer teachers workshop for the first time

The Bioscience Inclusion Network continues to meet regularly to promote further collaboration and advise BioSTL on its inclusion efforts.

Images courtesy of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Confluence Life Sciences