Innovation and the Value of Connection with Dr. Christie Canaria – Ep #61

Research and technology create immense value for the world through the results of their hard work. Important innovation and discovery are done in labs around the world, but there is another equally important landscape for businesses and startups who are working in innovative technologies, and that is the connection between people. 

Dr. Christie Canaria is a Program Director in the Small Business Innovation Research (or SBIR) Development Center at the National Cancer Institute. She provides programmatic support to small businesses applying to the SBIR and STTR programs and has areas of expertise in biological imaging, biosensors, and nanotechnology. 

Christie was an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, and she began science policy work in Washington DC in 2013. Previously, Christie managed an optical microscopy facility at DOE Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, as an imaging expert and neurobiologist. She was also a coordinator and imaging expert at the Caltech biological imaging center. 

Dr. Canaria earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology. Prior to that, Dr. Carnaria earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of California, San Diego.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [00:41] Mark introduces his guest, Dr. Christie Canaria
  • [03:05] How Dr. Christie came to be Program Director
  • [06:12] Communicating scientific ideas to the public
  • [08:11] The SBIR programs are the engine for innovation
  • [11:12] Dr. Canaria’s programs provide funding in the form of grants and federal contracts to small businesses that have innovative projects with high commercial potential
  • [13:33] How Dr. Canaria and her program choose the companies they work with
  • [17:04] There is a lot of value in the program
  • [19:09] What the future holds for the program
  • [21:32] Dr. Canaria could not have predicted her career path

Connect with Dr. Christie Canaria

The engine of innovation

Innovation is a major factor in the development of small businesses. That innovation involves risk, however, and not all entrepreneurs and business owners are ready to take put their hard-earned company on the line. Being a startup company is always difficult, and having a business that is trying to innovate with cutting edge technologies is no different. 

The SBIR Programs that Dr. Christie Canaria are a part of are what they like to call America’s Seed Fund. They provide early-stage funding for biotech companies, many of whom are startups. Companies like this can be started in a lab and are looking for traction and money to get off the ground. The National Cancer Institute, which is a part of the NIH, funds many of these small businesses that are working on the next generation of technologies in the field of cancer research.

The value in connections

Part of the process for going through the SBIR program is interviewing 100 people. That can seem like a lot of work, but there is incredible value for companies to gain in going through that process. That process inherently leads to a sharing of ideas that can lead to “aha” moments. Perhaps one the entrepreneurs will end up applying their technology to a different disease than they were initially studying, leading to a breakthrough that would not have otherwise happened.

It is a networking process that can be fruitful for the businesses as well as their research. In one example that Dr. Canaria gives in this episode, she worked with a team that had interviewed over 160 people during the eight-week program. Their network was naturally expanded through those efforts, and about a year after the program, it paid off. Because of the connections made during I-Corps, they were able to connect with another party that became a multi-million dollar strategic partner and investor.

Learn more about Dr. Christie Canaria on this week’s episode of When Science Speaks.

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