Awardees Choosing a Career in Industry: Can it Advance Funders’ Missions? Spring 2024 Members Meeting [March 12, 2024]

This session discussed the potential benefits of researchers choosing a career in industry over an academic career. Do funders consider this career choice a successful outcome, and recognize that it can be another equally valuable career path?  If so, are there ways funders can facilitate this transition to more effectively advance the funder’s mission?

A former grantee shared personal experience in transitioning to industry and discuss the benefits of working in industry; plus highlighting the importance of organizations supporting academic researchers as they consider a transition to a career in industry.

Other HRA panelists shared ways their organizations support this career choice from their grantees. They addressed how they continue to work with/engage grantees (or other stakeholders) that are/have transitioned to industry.


Emily Stormoen
CEO | Arthritis National Research Foundation


Lenny Dragone, PhD
Chief Medical Officer | Abata Therapeutics

Dr. Leonard Dragone has over twenty years of experience in preclinical, translational and early clinical development, with a focus in autoimmune disease. He most recently served as chief medical officer at Sonoma Biotherapeutics establishing it as a clinical stage company where he built the Clinical development, Translational and Data science organizations. Previously, Lenny held leadership roles in early clinical development at Janssen Biopharma, Merck Research Laboratories, and Genentech, where he advanced preclinical, investigational new drug (IND) filings and early clinical programs. In these roles, he focused on establishing cross-functional teams that defined patient disease heterogeneity, biomarkers and trial inclusion criteria, with the goal of enabling trials that can optimally define the value of new medicines for patients. 

Lenny received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Rochester before completing his pediatric residency and pediatric rheumatology fellowship training at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). He was also an associate professor of pediatrics and immunology at the University of Colorado and National Jewish Health in Denver, where he ran a National Institutes of Health-funded basic science laboratory, publishing more than 30 peer-reviewed articles. Lenny remains clinically active as a Volunteer Associate Professor of Pediatric Rheumatology at UCSF.

Angela Bowman, PhD
Science Advocacy Lead | Foundation Fighting Blindness

Dr. Angela Bowman is an inquisitive scientist with more than 15 years of experience in developmental biology, regenerative medicine, ophthalmology, and genetics. Angela is currently the Science Advocacy Lead at the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the largest private funder of retinal disease research. In this role, Angela manages a portfolio of genes that cause inherited retinal degeneration and serves as a scientific liaison between researchers, industry, and affected individuals.

Angela earned her PhD in Developmental Biology at Stanford University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in retinal gene therapy at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to coming to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, Angela was a Research Associate Professor of Developmental Biology and Executive Director of the Center of Regenerative Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. She was also a member of the NIH-funded Undiagnosed Diseases Network, where she helped to facilitate the creation of animal models for undiagnosed rare disease patients.

Stacy Pirro, PhD
Director | Iridian Genomes

Stacy Pirro is the director of Iridian Genomes, a non-profit specializing in sequencing genomes of non-model eukaryotic organisms.