HBS Names First Life Sci. Fellows

The $20,000 grants will allow students intersted in the

Eleven Harvard Business School students—including prospective entrepreneurs in the fields of medical engineering and health care strategy—received this year’s HBS Life Sciences Fellowships, the school announced last month.

The award, which was established this past January, provides first-year MBA students who have a background in the life sciences with a one-year, $20,000 grant.

The grant does not affect the winners’ eligibility for need-based financial aid from the Business School.

Michael T. Derse, one of this year’s recipients who graduated from Stanford in 2004 with a degree in mechanical engineering, became interested in designing medical devices during his junior year of college when he joined a team trying to help a saxophonist suffering from focal hand dystonia. (The neurological condition causes the hand to contract involuntarily, making it impossible for the musician to play his instrument.)

“We wanted to design something that would help him get back to his former playing level,” Derse said. “After going through a few prototypes, we created a glove braced with three pieces of steel that held his fingers in position, allowing him to move his fingers when he wanted but preventing the involuntary contractions.”

Business school was an attractive option, Derse said, because he “wanted two years to really get a good grasp on the concepts needed to run a fledgling business.”

“I want to feel confident that when I decide to start that business, I will have direction, and if surprises come up, I can handle them,” Derse said.

Karthik Ranganathan, another recipient and a graduate of the University of Mumbai in 1999, worked as a research scientist at a company called PocketSonics, helping to create an easier-to-use ultrasound system.

“The question I faced was how do I take a clunky $200,000 machine that isn’t very portable and make it into a small, portable, low-cost device,” Ranganathan said.

“I got started down this road as a result of my dad, who is in the pharmaceutical industry,” Ranganathan continued. “I’ve always been interested in health care, and I thought briefly about whether I wanted to be a career academic, but I found that it wasn’t a good fit for me.”

Ranganathan expressed confidence that he would remain in the health care industry following business school.

“I like the small, start-up, entrepreneurial environment, and my inclination is towards that direction, either at a small company or at a venture capital firm,” he said. “I’m looking for opportunities to stay close to science while building a viable business, but these thoughts can change during my two years here.”

Tara A. Dunn ’01, was the only woman to be awarded a Life Science Fellowship this year. She spent some time after college working for a health care strategy consulting firm called Health Advances.

The firm worked with pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms, and nonprofits, looking at how different health care firms could optimize treatment delivery opportunities.

“I definitely knew that I wasn’t interested in being a lab scientist,” Dunn said, “I wanted to work at the intersection of business and medicine. I’ve always been interested in health care, and saw a natural progression through the exciting biotech world that I first became aware of at Harvard.”

—Staff writer Prateek Kumar can be reached at