Baindu L. Bayon, PhD
AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Science & Technology Policy (STP) Fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
AWIS Member since 2010
“We pivot during our careers multiple times, and some of the most interesting and inspiring women are those who have finessed those pivots into a role that encompasses both their talent and their passions. Safe spaces for communication are critical, so I try my best to be a safe space for other women to share their perspectives.”
Where do you work as a STEM professional?
I am an AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Science & Technology Policy (STP) Fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Fellows serve assignments in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government in Washington, DC. I currently work in the Office of the Director in the “SEED” Office of Small business Education and Entrepreneurial Development (formerly called the Office of Biomedical Entrepreneurship and Innovation) within the Office of Extramural Research (OER). This new office (1) Develops and facilitates programs for accelerating the translation of research discoveries and innovations into new diagnostics, devices, therapeutics, and tools; (2) develops and implements strategic approaches and policies to enhance the return on the mandated Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) set aside funds; (3) serves as a focal point for the extramural research community for information about the NIH small business and other technology development opportunities and resources; (4) facilitates strategic alliances between the federal and private sector stakeholders and expands NIH outreach to non-traditional constituencies, such as angel investors, venture capitalists, technology transfer organizations, and state economic development agencies; (5) provides entrepreneurial training to the extramural community and NIH program staff; (6) collaborates with NIH centers and OER training programs to develop entrepreneurial training opportunities targeted at diverse populations including graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to provide alternative career development opportunities and catalyze professional development. My previous role was in the Division of Clinical Innovation (DCI) of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), where I was privileged to explore the commercialization aspects of translational research within the Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA) program. I learned so much at NCATS and have been excited to take my experiences from clinical innovation to the small business side of things.
What do you consider to be an important career achievement or milestone and why?
I believe that navigating [that] first role after graduation is a critical milestone. Whether it is seeking employment outside of academia or pursuing postdoctoral training, this first step outside of the predoctoral lab really helps to direct a professional journey. I chose to leave academia for industry and then government. Being able to transition to a government space after industry and academic experience is an important career achievement because it has given me a well-rounded view of how drug development and clinical innovation happens. I have seen a range of steps from “bench to bedside” or “molecule to medicine” along the translational spectrum.
Describe an amazing opportunity in your STEM career.
Being an AAAS STP Fellow is a highly coveted experience for scientists with an interest in gaining policy experience at the federal level. The opportunity to impact policy, to be mentored by policymakers, all while building a dynamic network of scientists who are passionate about how our work affects others is incomparable. I was able to transition from the bench at Indiana University School of Medicine to a biotech company in Boston, Massachusetts, to the National Institutes of Health. At NCATS, I was able to contribute to communications for the congressional justification of the CTSA program. I was also able to construct reports relating to entrepreneurship and commercialization programs at CTSA hubs. I am passionate about the discovery, development, and commercialization of clinical innovations and in the success of biotechnology companies from ideation to launch. My role in the SEED office provides an opportunity to grow my experiences in biomedical venture development, in innovator support, and to develop a strong network of innovative professionals.
What challenges have you encountered in your career, and how did you address it?
The largest challenge I continue to face is a personal one that affects the way I approach my career. In January of this year, I lost my father suddenly. Five years earlier, while in graduate school, I lost my mother. My parents have by far been my greatest motivation in the pursuit of medical science and understanding translational science. I have found that it is very common for those who have suffered from illness themselves or who have witnessed close family members struggle with their health to pursue careers in the sciences. Completing graduate school without the support of my mother was quite a hurdle, but I had my father there to push me along. Losing him only four months into my fellowship here in Washington, DC, left me reassessing the meaning of career on a larger scale and asking myself the questions, “Has this been worth it?” and “Can you do this without them?” Being able to speak my purpose and articulate my desired expertise in clinical entrepreneurship and commercialization has driven my career forward even during this difficult time. I forced myself to do an honest assessment of what I wanted my career to look like, what it would take, and how I would do it without my parental advisors here to nudge me along the way. I decided to think about the tools they’ve given me and to continue to use them intentionally moving forward in critical career decisions. My father understood my passion for implementation and commercialization of innovative discoveries. My mother understood my drive and willingness to grow. I’m basically a start-up and although my founders have retired, they are still on my heavenly board of directors.
How do you help women in STEM achieve their full potential? What is your best tip for other women in STEM to succeed?
BB: I try to tell women the truth about my experiences. I believe that we do one another a disservice by trying to perfectly package our experiences while leaving out the most difficult aspects. We benefit most from one another when we can be candid and vulnerable without being labeled negatively. We pivot during our careers multiple times, and some of the most interesting and inspiring women are those who have finessed those pivots into a role that encompasses both their talent and their passions. Safe spaces for communication are critical, so I try my best to be a safe space for other women to share their perspectives. My best tip is finding caring, intentional mentors. Building a network of advocates and maintaining relationships with those willing to be voice for you when you are not in the room to speak for yourself is absolutely necessary. In order to be successful, you not only need mentors, sponsors, and advocates, but you must be those things for other women yourself.