RTW Charitable Foundation, Areté Education, Hunts Point Alliance for Children, BioBus and Weill Cornell Medicine create initiative to engage youth from communities underrepresented in science and healthcare
NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–RTW Charitable Foundation (RTWCF), Hunts Point Alliance for Children (HPAC) and Areté Education recently launched ‘BioQuest by RTW Charitable Foundation’, an academic year-long program to build excitement among over 50 young students from underserved communities in the South Bronx excited about careers in science, biotech, and medicine. Along with collaborative partners BioBus and Weill Cornell, the program will offer students opportunities to connect with mentors, participate in hands-on lab activities, grow career exposure, and participate in enrichment field trips during which participants will learn about a wide range of careers in STEM.
As of 2020, 39% of the population of the South Bronx were Black and 60% were Hispanic, yet both ethnicities remain vastly underrepresented in the field of science: Hispanic workers represented only 15% of the total STEM workforce in 2021, and Black workers only 10%. The BioQuest program seeks to close this gap and inspire underrepresented students to pursue pathways and careers in science, biotech, and medicine.
The BioQuest program offers students the opportunity to participate in six activities through the 2023-2024 academic year, including a career day at RTW Investments’ New York office, lab tours of RTWCF and Weill Cornell Medicine, and a field trip to The Hall of Science in Queens. Additionally, BioBus will bring its fully equipped mobile lab to the South Bronx for interactive activities with mentors and students. The program kicked off in September with a back-to-school breakfast in Hunts Point for students and families, followed by activities including exploring the BioBus microscopes and participating in interactive science activities led by mentors and program facilitators.
Founded as the philanthropic arm of RTW Investments, a leading healthcare-focused entrepreneurial investment firm with deep scientific expertise and a strong track record of supporting companies developing life-changing therapies, RTWCF partners with organizations providing access to science-related education and healthcare services. A significant portion of RTWCF’s work and funding has been focused on New York City and since 2020, it has awarded $2 million to organizations across the boroughs.
RTWCF and RTW Investments recently hosted their first career day with the inaugural BioQuest cohort. Students participated in a series of dynamic activities and learned about a diverse array of careers including those focused on medical technology and investment, healthcare and drug development, medical research and data analysis, and business development. Students also connected with mentors, each of whom gave individualized insights into potential careers that connect with students’ interests and skills.
Thus far, the program has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students, many of whom had little to no previous exposure to such professions.
“I felt intrigued during the whole thing,” said one 11th grader. “I learned how science can be mixed with investing and the impact of combining them. I want to learn more on what else investing can have a mix with.”
“I learned that you don’t have to stay in one place in life,” said another. “Your career is like a journey. I want to learn about what academic paths I can take for future career options.”
One 9th grader said, “They made asking questions so easy. I learned about the medical technology field and career analysis. I want to learn more about the business part.”
BioQuest has plans to expand in the coming years, using feedback from students and educators to guide future programming.
“We’re excited to leverage our collective expertise to get students from the South Bronx excited to explore careers in science, biotechnology, and medicine. At our career day, we saw firsthand how excited these students are to learn more about the sciences. Exposure to experts in these fields could inspire underrepresented students to pursue careers in STEM, fields which could benefit from greater diversity moving forward,” said Marti Speranza Wong, board president of community engagement at RTW Charitable Foundation. “We’re very grateful to Areté Education, Hunts Point Alliance for Children, BioBus, and Weill Cornell Medicine for partnering with us in the inaugural year of BioQuest!”
“All young people deserve the ability to dream big and know the many different types of careers they can have. But many students come to us struggling to visualize working in the sciences. They need hands-on learning and individual engagement that broadens their experiences to the many different types of work they can do. We are deeply grateful to RTW Charitable Foundation for joining us in our efforts to empower young people to lead successful, fulfilling lives,” said Gabriel Hernandez. Education Executive Director at Areté.
“Hunts Point Alliance for Children is proud to participate in the BioQuest initiative, which aims to expose more Black and Hispanic students living in the South Bronx to STEM careers. We are thrilled at the prospect of inspiring more Black and Hispanic students to become scientists, and we look forward to working in collaboration with RTW Charitable Foundation, BioBus, Areté Education and Weill Cornell Medicine to make this program a success,” said Natasha Atkins, MSW, Executive Director of Hunts Point Alliance for Children.
“BioBus is ecstatic to be a part of the BioQuest program. We have seen time and time again that providing students with hands-on science experiences and connecting them with scientist-mentors is a critical step in developing their confidence in the lab. As NYC continues to establish itself as a hub of scientific research and industry, young scientists from the South Bronx will pave the path forward with science pursuits that benefit NYC communities. We thank RTW Charitable Foundation and its partners for supporting this critical work and changing lives,” said Ben Dubin-Thaler, PhD, Founder and Executive Director of BioBus.
About RTW Charitable Foundation
Founded in 2018 as the charitable foundation arm of RTW Investments, LP, RTW Charitable Foundation works to power rare disease research, medical innovation and humanitarian collaborations to improve the health of underserved communities. The Foundation is able to provide capital, manpower, and logistical support to help scientists push such projects forward. In addition, the Foundation aims to assist in advocacy, disease awareness and directly support organizations and communities in New York City. To learn more, visit www.rtwcf.org.