How McMaster’s ecosystem of innovation is empowering student entrepreneurs

Three separate headshots of Tasia Nabil, Hasam Madarati and Fran Lasowski side-by-side.

(From left to right) Tasnia Nabil, a student in the inaugural Master of Biomedical Innovation (MBI) program, Hasam Madarati, a McMaster alumnus and CEO and co-Founder of Rayyan Therapeutics, and Fran Lasowski, a McMaster alumna, entrepreneur and adjunct associate professor.

From the student learning how to pitch an idea, to the researcher being coached on a commercialization plan, to the faculty member launching a company with seed funding, there are supports for all McMaster community members wherever they may be on their entrepreneurial journey.  

Since 2015, The Forge — a business incubator dedicated to supporting students and fostering entrepreneurial thinking — has helped develop, support and grow 299 companies that have raised over $46.5M in funding. 

Emerging health innovators can tap into education, resources and support to move their innovations forward at The Clinic, a 3,000 sq ft innovation hub on campus.  

And the McMaster Industry Liaison Office (MILO) works closely with researchers and industry partners to convert innovative ideas into solutions that benefit society and drive economic growth. 

“McMaster’s dynamic innovation ecosystem is rapidly growing,” says Leyla Soleymani, associate vice-president, research (commercialization & entrepreneurship). “Our commitment to entrepreneurship across the university and across all stages of the entrepreneurial journey ensures we’re delivering creative academic and research programs that will impact and advance our local and global communities.”    

Here are the stories of three innovators and how McMaster’s entrepreneurial supports are helping them make a positive impact on the world: 

Tasnia Nabil 

A headshot of Tasnia Nabil Tasnia Nabil is a student in the inaugural Master of Biomedical Innovation (MBI) program and the recipient of the MBI Scholarship Award dedicated to Female Entrepreneurship.  

Nabil’s innovation journey started in adolescence, experimenting with nanoparticles. At 16, she won a national science contest for a potential cancer therapy she developed.  

Nabil says when she saw the unique mix of technology development and entrepreneurial skills offered in the MBI program, she knew she had to apply.   

“I’ve always known that I wanted to go into the medical device industry so the fact that I have a program that shows me, ‘this is how you make the device. This is also how you implement it and see it through from bench side to bedside.’ That is exactly what I’ve always wanted.”  

Though she only has a few weeks of the MBI program under her belt, Nabil says she has already made connections with health care leaders and medical technology company innovators. 

“McMaster seems to have an infrastructure for demonstrating to students how to innovate, which is something that is very unique. I really appreciate the innovative mindset and I love how it’s very much an environment that fosters creativity,” she says. 

Nabil hopes to become a clinician-scientist and see the medical devices she creates have an impact on patients’ lives. She’s also hoping the MBI program can help her develop and implement the potential cancer therapy she came up with as a teen.  

“That was my dream from day one. So, this program is helping that dream continue.”  

Hasam Madarati  

A headshot of Hasam Madarati

Hasam Madarati says it was the support he received at The Clinic, a hub for health care innovators at McMaster, that gave him the skills to build and successfully launch his business.  

Madarati is the founder and CEO of Rayyan Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company developing a therapeutic treatment for cardiovascular disease and blood clots.  

He says it was a discussion at The Clinic with fellow entrepreneur and McMaster graduate Lianna Genovese that gave him the confidence to take part in the Innovation Factory’s Synapse Competition.  

“That was kind of my first stepping stone into the world of entrepreneurship. And it was through that competition and the Health Innovation Bootcamp that our company Rayyan Therapeutics was actually founded,” says Madarati.  

The bootcamp and competition opened his eyes to a “whole new world” and ignited an entrepreneurial passion in him, says the innovator.  

Madarati is now giving back by supporting the Health Innovation Bootcamp in a mentorship role.  

His advice for others contemplating entrepreneurship?  

“It’ll be hard, but it can be done,” says Madarati. “Just understand that this is something that you have to be passionate about and if you are passionate about it, you will achieve it. And if you can achieve it, it’s going to be life changing.” 

Fran Lasowski

A headshot of Fran Lasowski

Fran Lasowski knows the ecosystem of innovation at McMaster well.  

The adjunct assistant professor in the W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology competed in The Forge Startup Survivor Pitch Competition as a PhD student, led the C20/20 Innovation Hub at McMaster (a partner research organization) to commercialize ophthalmic technologies, and received seed funding to help launch biotechnology startup 20/20 OptimEyes Technologies.  

“The Forge was essential to launching our startup. It provided our first funding and allowed us to really engage in the broader Hamilton entrepreneurial ecosystem and cemented my interest in pursuing my own entrepreneurial journey,” says the former Vanier Scholar.  

Lasowski says the seed funding was “critical” to the growth of the startup and progress on the team’s milestones.  

Lasowski is now giving back to the entrepreneurial community at McMaster, serving as an innovation coach at The Clinic.  

Her advice for those at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey?  

“Get engaged! The entrepreneurial community is very friendly and supportive and people recognize the support they’ve received and are eager to give back,” says Lasowski.  

“There’s a growing number of resources at McMaster (The Forge, The Clinic, undergrad and graduate classes and workshops) and within Hamilton (Innovation Factory, Synapse, Hamilton Business Centre) that are a great place to start and there’s many entrepreneurs (myself included) who are always happy to have a chat!” 

This is McMaster Entrepreneurship Week.

Learn more about entrepreneurship events, resources and education at McMaster here 

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