The Biotechnology and Life Sciences Advising (BALSA) Group is a graduate studentand
post-doctoral fellow-led strategic consulting firm dedicated to supporting economic growth and
development in St. Louis, Missouri. BALSA has been recognized by St. Louis civic leaders as a
valuable player in the St. Louis entrepreneurial community and has demonstrated that graduate
students and post-doctoral fellows – without formal training – can provide professional business
strategy support to start-ups, growing companies, and large corporations. The BALSA Group has
inspired the establishment of similar groups around the United States, including Fourth River
Solutions (4RS) at the University of Pittsburgh, in forming sustainable organizations that support
their local entrepreneurial communities. Key to the success of new organizations are university
Technology Transfer Offices, which can become recurring clients and serve as training grounds to
build the core competencies of student-run consulting groups. This article highlights the success of The BALSA Group
and 4RS in developing a novel addition to the Ph.D./post-doctoral fellow training paradigm, focusing on collaborations
with Technology Transfer Offices, and describes a model for creating similar ventures at other universities.
Keywords: Academic commercialization, Fourth River Solutions, BALSA, Technology transfer, Trainee-led consulting.
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