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November 11, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Culiat shares her “lessons learned” as a researcher turned entrepreneur

NellOne(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series on local technology start-up NellOne Therapeutics, Inc.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Yesterday’s article focused on the history, challenges and outlook for Oak Ridge-based NellOne Therapeutics, Inc.

Today, we share the “lessons learned” that Cymbeline (Bem) Culiat, the company’s Chief Scientific Officer and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board, shared with us.

“You need champions who stand by you whether you are up or down,” she said, citing the role her family and friends have played in her entrepreneurial pursuits. Among the strongest of those friends is Tracy Warren, her co-founder who is NellOne’s Chair and Chief Executive Officer.

“NellOne would not have survived without Tracy,” Culiat says emphatically. “With Tracy’s extensive experience starting four life sciences companies in the past decade and her intimate knowledge of NellOne’s science and business, her continued support and leadership of our company is invaluable.”

Another is Jennifer Caldwell, Group Leader for Technology Commercialization at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, who handles the NellOne portfolio. Culiat says, “She has also worked hard with our company over the past five years to address a variety of licensee issues on materials transfer, intellectual property and licensing milestone.”

“We have also benefited tremendously from the encouragement and advice of prominent biotech and business leaders in Tennessee who have ‘been there, done that’ such as Joe Cook Jr., Sam and Leslie Lynch, and Chuck Witkowski,” she added.

Perhaps of greatest significance was Culiat’s advice that entrepreneurs “need to understand why you want to do it (build a start-up company).” With the unrelenting challenges and changes that are intrinsic in the entrepreneurial terrain, she believes that one needs to have a really strong passion and motivation to accomplish one’s goals.

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