Business Strategy for Life Scientists

Organizational Strategy Section: Image of compass with arrow pointed towards the word strategy
Welcome to the course page for Business Strategy for Basic Scientists
This content is designed provide an overview of how scientific enterprises use strategy to achieve their overarching goals. What is Strategy? Strategy is knowing where you want to be and how you want to get there. Strategy reflects both the long term and short term organizational goals. Defining your strategy helps you achieve your goals by directing your daily objectives. The goal of this workshop is to help prepare scientists who want to start their own labs, and inform scientists who want to go into industry. As a scientist, you may need to develop strategy as an individual, as part of a lab or group, and as part of a scientific enterprise. This page has lecture videos, case study information and other resources to help you prepare for the Business Strategy workshop.
This course is part of the series titled Business Concepts for Basic Scientists. You can also view the introductions to Finance and Business Development.

Strategy lecture videos

This workshop is designed as a flipped classroom - participants will watch the videos before the class and discuss the cases in class.

It is mandatory to watch these videos before attending the workshop. Total video time for Parts I & II is approximately 30 minutes.

For your convenience, we have included the lecture slides.


Business strategy learning objectives


This workshop is designed provide an overview of how scientific enterprises use strategy to achieve their overarching goals, and examples to illustrate the concepts. By the end of the workshop, you will be able to:

  • Define strategy and how scientific enterprises use strategy
  • Identify the value proposition of a scientific enterprise
  • Determine key stakeholders for a scientific enterprise
  • Discuss how organizational context impacts budget and resource allocation


Case information

During the in-class case study discussion, the class will break into small groups and identify one company's strategy from their website. 
Prepare for the discussions by reviewing the sample companies.
  • Review the companies. Companies you might discuss include Global Blood Therapeutics, Intersect ENTJuno Therapeutics, or any other company your group would like to discuss. As a group, participants might choose one of these companies to discuss in class or select a different company to practice identifying company strategy. Participants who browsed the websites before class reported a more positive and engaging in-class experience. So go ahead and see how much of the company's strategy you can identify from the website.
Questions to answer:
  1. How would you describe the company's value proposition?
    • Why is the work important?
    • What is unique about the technology or work product?
    • Who has a stake in the outcomes of the work and what do they value?
  2. What can you say about their organizational context?
    • Where in the development cycle is the enterprise?
    • What is the structure of the enterprise (including funding)?
    • What resources are available to achieve objectives?
  3. What is the company’s 1 - 3 year strategy?


Speakers and course developers

Course speakers Deb Dauber, Sandra Waugh-Ruggles, and Anatol Kreitzer.

Deborah Dauber has a Ph.D. in Chemistry and Chemical Biology from UCSF and a Master’s in Public Health with a focus in Health Policy & Management from UC Berkeley. She has 15 years of experience in pharmaceutical market analysis and strategy. Currently consulting with a focus in pharmaceutical competitive analysis, Deborah works with biotech firms to make informed business decisions based on in-depth assessment of competitors in development and on the market. Prior to that, Deborah was head of CI for Genentech, and led competitive intelligence initiatives to investigate key competitors (product and company-level), evaluate revenue impact of competition, and assess full market landscapes.
Sandra Waugh Ruggles is a healthcare innovator and strategic marketer. Currently focused on consulting for small companies seeking to design and develop novel medical devices, Sandy was formerly in strategic marketing at Acclarent (part of J&J). She holds a PhD from UCSF in Biophysics, and was a Thomas Fogarty Fellow at the Stanford Biodesign program. Her first company, Catalyst Biosciences was formed in part from her thesis at UCSF, and is now a clinical stage, NASDAQ listed company.
Anatol Kreitzer, PhD is an Associate Investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease and Associate Professor of Physiology and Neurology at UCSF. Dr. Kreitzer’s research focuses on the disordered physiological processes associated with Parkinson’s disease. He is an expert in the emerging field of optogenetics—the application of genetic and optical techniques to remotely control brain cells in animals. Dr. Kreitzer earned his PhD in neurobiology at Harvard University. He conducted postdoctoral research at Stanford University with Dr. Robert Malenka until 2007, when he established his laboratory at Gladstone.


Course contributors


Michael Penn, Jr., MD, PhD - Vice President, Diversity, Outreach, J. David Gladstone Institutes

Brad Grueter, PhD - Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology, Vanderbilt University

Calli Merkel, PhD - Engagement Manager at inVentiv Health Consulting

Kinkead Reiling, PhD - Entrepreneur and UCSF Biophysics alumnus

Kevin Mullane, PhD - Director of Corporate Liaison and Ventures, J. David Gladstone Institutes

Bill Lindstaedt, MS - Executive Director, Career Advancement, International and Postdoctoral Services, Student Academic Affairs, UCSF


Course producer

Thi Nguyen, PhD - PI of Burroughs Wellcome Fund grant and OCPD career development consultant

Interested in learning more about the course or delivering this course at your university? Contact Thi at [email protected].

The educational videos were produced in collaboration with iBiology.


Course funding

This course is provided at no cost to graduate students and postdocs thanks to funding by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.