Director of Studies for Bioentrepreneurship programme
“Usually, you have scientists who are brilliant but they don’t really know business. And you have business people who are brilliant at business, but they don’t really understand the science part. That’s the gap we want to fill.”
Madelen Lek (39) energetically explains what the Masters in Bioentrepreneurship at Karolinska Institutet is all about. “Our students have the basics in natural science and we add business to that with our Masters programme.”
Madelen herself has a scientific background, having studied molecular biology in Umeå in the north of Sweden. Following completion of her bachelor degree she joined the biomedical research school in Stockholm and defended her PhD thesis at Karolinska Institutet in 2004. “After that, I did a postdoc in Uppsala. During that time, I realized that I wasn’t into research anymore. I thought it was too much administrative work and too little research time.”
Looking for alternatives, Madelen contacted the Junior Chamber International, a network for the entrepreneurial-minded. “I got involved and found people that I really liked: the entrepreneurs. The ones who had all the drive and wanted to do things and test things. And if they failed they just want to learn and do it again. I get a lot of energy from that sort of people. I am not necessarily an entrepreneur in that I want to start a company, but I like the people and the atmosphere.”
When Madelen saw a job-opening at KI as a coordinator for the Unit for Bioentrepreneurship in 2010, she applied immediately – and got the position. “After a year I took over as Director of Studies. I’ve been in this position on and off for a couple of years now. I have a lot of different tasks; I also have to coordinate the placement courses and the thesis course and I work for the pedagogics of the unit. And I work with the Research School for Drug Discovery and Development and with the internationalization of the Biomedical Bachelor. It’s a lot, yes” she laughs.
The Masters programme in Bioentrepreneurship started in 2008, educating students to bridge the gap between science and business.
“Our model is theory, practice and inspiration. So we have a lecturer coming in and talking about a business model, for example. After that we use the model to do some calculations. Then we have someone who comes in who probably just started a company and worked a lot with this model. In that way the students can feel the connection to the real world,” Madelen explains.
Very important for the Masters in Bioentrepreneurship are the practical placements. “You have a shorter placement of five weeks that you do in groups, a longer placement of three months that you do alone. And then you have your thesis in a company setting. So you have more or less one year of placements.” This combination of placements and the natural science background of the students makes this programme unique.
As the programme is one of a kind, Madelen and her colleagues are naturally looking for a special type of student. ‘Contrary to many other programmes, we don’t look so much at grades. We look for motivation and drive. What will you do with the education? What is your plan? It’s not about starting a company, but we want to see that you have drive and passion.”
The entrepreneurial attitude is alive with the current batch of students. “It’s amazing to see,” says Madelen. ‘The students are so active. They volunteer at big conferences, they create prizes, they started a Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business event at KI. I think it’s a really inspiring group of people to come to.”
Profile by Maike Winters and Photography by David Humphreys.