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The Flagship Fellowship: Transforming Scientists into Pioneers

The 2023 Fellows describe the Flagship Fellowship in their own words.

The Flagship Fellowship is invigorating, intense, and fun — or at least those are some of the ways the 2023 class of Fellows described it. These varied descriptors came from equally varied individuals brought together based on their shared scientific acumen, personal initiative, creativity, adaptability, entrepreneurial spirit, and willingness to embark on a journey into the unknown. These qualities are essential for the three-month summer intensive to teach these PhDs or near-PhDs the Flagship process and approach for developing breakthrough innovations in human health and sustainability.

Flagship Pioneering established the Fellowship with the goal of fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in the life sciences, empowering exceptional individuals to channel their scientific creativity into the formation of groundbreaking biotech startups that accelerate advancements in human health and sustainability.

Fellows grapple with being pushed far outside their comfort zones.

June kicks off three successive scientific explorations the Fellows conduct in collaborative teams that culminate each month with a readout in front of Flagship leaders. Explorations explore often far-flung hypotheses — typically outside of the Fellows’ scientific expertise — that are pressure tested until the team identifies a potential breakthrough. For many of the Fellows, this is a significant departure from their past experiences. No longer are their contributions within their academic pursuit of most interest. Instead, their naivety and ability to question existing norms are their most valuable assets for moving beyond adjacent ideas and leaping into scientific white spaces.

Many of the Fellows find collaboration the most meaningful aspect of the Fellowship.

It isn’t just the science that is new to the Fellows. It is typically also the experience of collaborating with a team and evaluating science through an entrepreneurial lens — distinct from academic environments that emphasize individualism and theoretical knowledge. Fellows learn to freely engage experts in the field as advisors, reaching out into the broad and deep Flagship network. And while the Fellowship is intense, it isn’t all heads-down and hands-on work. Fellows meet with CEOs of Flagship-founded companies, learn what it takes to bring a biological product to market, and unwind with the extended Flagship team during social events.

Flagship Fellows learn how to take scientific leaps.

Flagship established the Fellowship to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the life sciences by immersing Fellows in the Flagship process. As such, the Fellowship offers a chance to transform in a single summer. Not only do Fellows learn skills like decision-making in the face of ambiguity, the foundations of entrepreneurship, and teamwork, but critically the ability to approach science and problem solving with creativity. By stepping outside of their expertise, connecting with scientists of other disciplines, and learning the Flagship approach to entrepreneurial innovation, Fellows are prepared to propel science, human health, and sustainability leaps forward.