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Atlanta life sciences companies in OVERDRIVE: don’t sleep on ‘em!

Today we have four very special guests, some friends of mine, who are going to share with us the story behind all the momentum driving life sciences in Atlanta.

  • Eddie Lai represents the MetroAtlanta Chamber of Commerce

  • Courtney Law represents a group called Biolocity, which bridges Emory and Georgia Tech

  • Ryan Lawler is from BioSpark Labs, funded by Georgia Technology Ventures, supporting the life science community in Atlanta

  • Suna Lumeh is from a venture capital firm called Portal Innovations

The Atlanta life sciences community is booming, and we have some of its most influential leaders here with us to talk about it. To give a sense of the life science companies in Atlanta, there is a mix of pharmaceutical, manufacturing, R&D, and biotech. Life science companies are drawn to Atlanta because of the low cost of living co compared to other markets, and the labor force is strong due to the local universities such as Emory, Spelman, Morehouse, Georgia Tech, etc.

Not everyone wants to live in Boston!

In this podcast, we’ll talk about:

  • Where Atlanta currently stands in terms of life sciences

  • How did the four of you (Suna, Ed, Dr. Law, and Ryan) come together?

  • What is the process of procuring lab space at Biolocity?

  • What is the business model at Portal Innovations and how is it unique?

  • What do biotech entrepreneurs’ mentorship needs tend to be?

  • Why do biotech and life science firms decide to come to Atlanta?

  • What would success look like for the Atlanta life sciences community in ten years?

This was a great group so I hope you’ll listen to the show!

Dr. Courtney Law

Courtney Law, Ph.D., joined Biolocity as Managing Director in November 2020. Biolocity provides a combination of funding, project management, and consulting resources to new technologies from Emory University or the Georgia Institute of Technology that address unmet clinical needs and have compelling commercial potential. Since 2015, the program has awarded more than $10 million across 66 projects, generating more than 16 times that much in follow-on investment.

Most recently, she served as Georgia Bio’s Director for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In this role, she was responsible for positioning Georgia Bio as a leader for Academic – Industry relationships and collaborations, strengthening the partnership and collaboration between the Life Sciences community and academic institutions.

Prior to moving to Atlanta, Dr. Law was Gonzaga University’s Director of the University of Washington School of Medicine—Gonzaga University Regional Health Partnership. In leading GU’s efforts within the Partnership, she worked with colleagues at both institutions to advance health-related research, entrepreneurship and inter-professional health education. She served on local and regional Boards of Directors for Providence Health Care. Dr. Law also worked at Life Science Washington, developing the Washington Innovation Network for Life Sciences Entrepreneur Mentoring Program as well as an initiative to expose graduate students to entrepreneurship. She has served as a consultant for the University of Washington CoMotion program to promote research commercialization. She also worked with entrepreneurs and early-stage companies at the Office of Technology Transfer at North Carolina State University.

Dr. Law holds a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She completed postdoctoral studies at the Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE) in Durham, North Carolina.

Ryan Lawler

Meet Ryan Lawler, General Manager of BioSpark Labs, a not-for-profit facility providing shared wet lab and cleanroom space for life sciences, anchored in Science Square. Ryan has over a decade of experience as an administrative leader and biotech manager in the public and private sectors.

Ryan supports the growth of life sciences as part of the Science Square development team and manages the startup activities of BioSpark Labs including budgeting, programming, facility and laboratory operations, compliance, leasing and marketing, tenant and community relationships. She’s also responsible for facilitating relationships between GaTech researchers, students, startups and industry partners within the Science Square innovation hub for the city of Atlanta.

Suna Lumeh

As Director of Operations for our Atlanta expansion, Suna is establishing and leading Portal Innovation’s platform in Atlanta at Science Square Labs. Previously, Suna held clinical R&D roles in pharma, across both early and late stage biologics development. She grew her specialty in pharmacovigilance (safety & efficacy) and immunogenicity assay development at scale—sourcing, developing, and integrating novel diagnostic technologies and robotics platforms—before moving into the early venture space. She has since served as a biomedical science consultant for early-stage startups, ultimately cofounding two VC-backed biotech and digital health startups.

In addition to supporting diverse founders, Suna remains an active advocate for youth STEM outreach, having established hands-on afterschool programs in Greater Philadelphia, Washington DC, and a girls' science mentorship program in Kenema, Sierra Leone. Suna intends to continue supporting and building the pipeline of incredible life science founders and teams capable of bringing life-saving solutions to patients, and scaling innovative biomedical and healthcare ventures that will feed into the economic development in Atlanta and beyond.

Eddie Lai

Edward “Eddie” Lai is the Senior Manager of Life Sciences & Digital Health Ecosystem Expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC). He directs MAC's recruitment and growth strategies for the Life Science (Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices/Instruments, animal/agriculture bioscience), Digital Health (Health IT, mobile health, wearable devices, telehealth and telemedicine, and personalized medicine), and Age Tech ecosystems.

Prior to joining the Chamber, he came to Atlanta from Boston for a role at metro Atlanta-based Emory Healthcare as an Operations & Strategy Administrative Fellow working on hospital and system-wide initiatives including COVID-19 Supply Chain procurement and outpatient COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Operation. He subsequently joined the Emory Healthcare Innovation Hub as its first Administrator, engaging with companies external to Emory as well as with internal stakeholders to operationalize projects within the health system.

Eddie earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences and a minor in Health Services Administration from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. After graduation, he served in AmeriCorps in a high school in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone. He then earned his Master of Public Health with a concentration in Healthcare Management and a certificate in Pharmaceutical Development, Delivery, and Access from the Boston University School of Public Health. He is also the co-founder of the Association of Asian Healthcare Leaders (AAHL).


The information contained in this website and podcast are purely informational and not considered investment recommendations. Tim Dougherty’s participation in Biotech Insights is separate and apart from his role as an investment advisor representative. Nothing contained herein may be construed as a recommendation or endorsement of any of the companies discussed. Tim Dougherty has no financial affiliation with any of the companies mentioned in this communication. Tim Dougherty makes no representation that the information conveyed in this material is accurate and is under no obligation to update this information as changes occur.

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