Seattle Children’s Research Institute is investing $45 million in the new Invent at Seattle Children’s Postdoctoral Scholars Program that will prepare scholars for careers in biotech or academia. The program will provide mentorship, education and financial support for 10 postdoctoral scholars per year to help them create new “discovered here” cellular, gene or protein therapeutics that ultimately advance to clinical trials for children. Seattle Children’s Foundation has pledged to raise an additional $10 million for the program.

Scholars will receive mentoring from faculty at Seattle Children’s Research Division, the University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and Benaroya Research Institute who have collectively spun out more than 30 biotech companies. They will be salary-funded for three years with potential for additional salary support in the fourth and fifth year for outstanding scholars who are starting biotech companies or transitioning to independent faculty positions.

Therapeutics designed specifically for children

Few therapeutics are developed specifically for children, yet “hand-me-down” drugs often fail to address pediatric diseases. Seattle Children’s is uniquely poised to lead breakthrough research in pediatric therapeutics based on our track record and prior investments in manufacturing infrastructure.

In the 15 years since its inception, Seattle Children’s Research Institute scientists have discovered cellular therapeutics, gene therapies and protein therapeutics that have led to dozens of clinical trials and 14 biotech companies.

More PhD-level scientists enter industry than academia for their careers, yet proper training for biotech-oriented team science that involves milestone-driven research and carefully constructed “go/no go” decision making is nearly absent in academic centers that train most postdoctoral scientists.

An emphasis on diversity and inclusion

Scientists from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds, women, those who identify as LGBTQIA+ and those from disadvantaged backgrounds historically have been excluded and underrepresented in the biotech field, particularly at the level of company founders and executives. Because of this, the intellect, drive, creativity and perspective of countless talented individuals have been forever lost. One contributing factor has been the reliance on accomplishments rather than potential for many doctoral and postdoctoral training programs, which tend to favor those who had access to early internships, multigeneration alumni connections and other privileges.

To actively counter these historical approaches, the Invent at Seattle Children’s Postdoctoral Scholars Program is upending the application process to focus on potential, motivation, natural curiosity, creativity and commitment to building their knowledge. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.

While the admissions committee will focus recruiting efforts on candidates who identify with underrepresented or underserved communities, identify as LGBTQIA+ or come from disadvantaged backgrounds, the committee does not see information on race, gender, sexual identity or background as they make decisions about admission to the program.

Better outcomes

Building an inclusive work environment leads to better patient outcomes. Seattle Children’s goal is for workforce demographics to reflect those of the patients and families we serve.

For more information