Cornell introduces new AI-focused Board Governance program

Cornell live immersion program participants engage in discussion

Blending resilience and risk is essential for companies that intend to survive today’s tech innovations, economic uncertainty and political pendulum swings. The greater the challenges, the greater the demand for leaders who can deliver an effective mix of foresight and strategic oversight.

Board Governance: Navigating Emerging Technologies and More in a Complex World, a new Cornell Tech immersion program slated for this fall, is set to prepare corporate board members for fast-paced evolutions in artificial intelligence (AI), geopolitics, cybersecurity, supply chains, sustainability and other areas driving the future of commerce.

Read the full story on the Cornell Chronicle.

Bringing New Science to Market

Medical supplies and drugs, including a syringe, surgical mask, and pills

Medical innovation is reaching new heights every year. What scientific breakthroughs can we expect on the market in the coming decade? What challenges will we face in adopting them?

Professor Sean Nicholson, director of the Cornell Sloan Program in Health Administration, welcomed Wyatt Gotbetter, SVP and worldwide head of Parexel Access Consulting, and Dr. Gregory B. Franz, MD, MPH, MHA, hematologist and medical oncologist at the Kirkland Cancer Center, to explore answers to these questions in the recent Keynote webcast “Bringing New Science to Market: Innovation, Adoption, and Health Policy Challenges.”

Biotech and pharmaceutical firms spend about $80 billion each year on research and development in order to try to bring new therapies to the market. What is in the pipeline that might have a big positive effect on the health of the population in the future?

Gotbetter: “If we think just about the past five years, and of course that includes the pandemic, I think the rate of innovation and the number of launches has been remarkable. We can’t have this discussion without acknowledging the validation and the importance to all of us of the RNAi vaccines from BioNTech and Moderna. Moderna, on the heels of that success and being flush with sales of their COVID vaccine, is really advancing a number of therapeutic products as well as vaccines – really advancing their RNAi technology into the therapeutic space and oncology specifically.

In the same time, we’ve seen the approval of a couple of CAR-Ts truly advancing life-saving therapy in hematology and oncology. I think we’ll see gene therapies becoming safer and easier to manufacture, hopefully at lower costs. There’s just a pipeline of literally hundreds of programs where we’ll see gene therapy go from rare disease and disease that has very, very high morbidity perhaps into things managed more chronically with small molecule drugs – like heart failure.”

We have a couple of CAR-T therapies on the market that are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved. Are there similar kinds of classes of compounds that have yet to be approved that you think might potentially have a similar health impact?

Franz: “Leveraging the immune system to identify and kill cancer cells – that’s really what’s going on here. This is T cells doing what T cells do against cancer cells. I know that’s a very simple explanation. It’s very difficult to develop these compounds and to do this safely, but I think that’s where the money and the future is.”

It takes a long time, and it’s very expensive for biotech and pharmaceutical firms to run clinical trials and, even preceding that, to identify compounds that are promising enough to start a clinical trial. The current estimate is about $2.6 billion in investment across a portfolio of compounds in order to statistically assure a company that they’re going to have one approved compound. Where do companies come up with that money, and in the current climate, is it difficult for companies to raise the funds they need in order to invest in those drugs?

Gotbetter: “That $2.6 billion figure also includes the cost of failure. Even if we think about a successful drug compound, if you boil down the numbers, hundreds and hundreds of drug candidates will be considered before you start your phase one and then roughly one in ten of those will make it through to approval. It’s fraught with risk. But even if you could streamline that process, you’re probably looking at hundreds of millions to a billion dollars.

The amount of money that’s poured into the biotech sector over the past few years has been remarkable. We’ve seen, though, a massive sea change in the past year. Biotech has been the engine of discovery and innovation for large pharmaceutical companies. The largest companies in the world that certainly have formidable R&D engines employing thousands of people still turn to biotech to find innovation, to find a compound that has been tested, that shows a proof of concept, and can move forward.

The headwinds of the past year or two – interest rates and some of the perceived threats of the Inflation Reduction Act, which could reduce pricing power of the industry – has really slowed down [venture capital] funding.

I think what that means is that probably the rate of innovation will slow down a little bit in the sense that there may be fewer programs being pursued simultaneously, so a company may really focus on the crown jewels instead of many at once. Then biotech may again have to be more reliant on Big Pharma once they’re in the middle of their development versus a period where they probably could see funding to go all the way through.”

What are the factors that make a drug widely adopted?

Franz: “In the medical oncology world, it’s really all about safety and efficacy. Is the drug difficult to give? Does the patient have a lot of adverse side effects? How do you manage those side effects? But most importantly, you’re looking at endpoints: PFS, or progression-free survival, and OS, or overall survival. Duration of response and response rate are biggies and, of course, the toxicity profile. All those together are important. The better the PFS and OS, the more successful the drug is going to be.”

Are biotech and pharmaceutical firms doing anything to try to run their trials differently – to be less expensive, to be shorter, to have higher probability of approval?

Gotbetter: “The FDA provides a rubric that says for very life-threatening diseases, it will work with the industry sponsor to find a way to streamline the therapy. We have names for that in the U.S like breakthrough therapies and accelerated pathways, where you get more support and guidance from the regulatory agency, but you’re also partnering with them along the way to find a way to expedite the study.

There’s a lot of companies that are using all sorts of AI, computational methods and synthetic biology to [speed up the trial process].”

Historically, clinical trials have been dominated by white men. Are biotech and pharmaceutical firms trying to diversify those trials? What are the implications potentially of a more representative group of patients in the testing phase?

Gotbetter: “There are mandates coming from the FDA and other governments, and I think very sincere efforts from the pharma industry and from clinical research organizations who enroll and operationalize the studies to really bring diversity into studies. There’s an awareness in society for many reasons, for many historical wrongs, we need to bring more diversity into everything we do. It’s to really ensure that when we study a drug, we’ll be able to show efficacy in different populations because we’re not all the same. Historically, if you were to develop a drug for people of European descent, across the globe in Asian markets, they would want to know that there was a study being done in populations for which the results were meaningful for them. As we take that to other populations, to different age groups, different genders, it’s the right thing to do.”

 

This post has been edited for length and clarity.

Want to learn more about the future of biopharma? Register for Cornell’s Biotech and Pharmaceutical Management Immersion Program and watch the full Keynote “Bringing New Science to Market” webcast online.

4 Ways to Leverage AI in Your Corporate Strategy

Rendering of pathways in the human brain with a lighted background

With the swift expansion of artificial intelligence, automation tools are now readily available to corporations and consumers alike. Companies are integrating new technologies to avoid falling behind their competition and appearing out of touch with trends that matter to their employees and customers.

But the steps to incorporate and embrace emerging tech can be challenging. Expert faculty from the Graduate School of Management at Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business identified four best practices senior executives can employ to capitalize on advancements in AI and dodge common pitfalls.

1. Innovate early – with startup partners.

In its 2022 Global AI Adoption Index, IBM reported that 35 percent of companies were using AI and 42 percent were exploring AI for future implementation. Findings from Grand View Research indicate this tech adoption will drive the market size to $1.8 billion in revenue within seven years. To remain competitive in this environment, leaders can collaborate across companies to use AI in ways that set them apart from major rivals.

Swift changes in tech-driven markets demand innovation and adaptation, but many businesses are optimized to resist change rather than embrace it, leading to fewer risks – and rewards. The hesitation to adopt can be a danger to the bottom line.

“Executives can avoid this stumbling block by implementing agile methods and building mutually beneficial partnerships with startups driving innovation in their areas of need,” said Stephen Sauer, senior lecturer of management and organizations and Entrepreneur in Residence for the college. “Established companies can benefit from the tech experimentation that is more common in newer businesses while giving these partners the wisdom of experience.”

Karan Girotra, Charles H. Dyson Family professor of technology and management, adds that when tech advances rapidly in times of political and socioeconomic uncertainty, leaders can underestimate the rate of change and overestimate the ability of past expertise in helping them tackle the environment.

“Executives need to adopt a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all, mindset. Leaders need to embrace smart, cheap and fast experimentation to try out many new initiatives and learn fast,” Girotra said.

2. Choose accuracy over convenience.

Information may be more accessible than ever, but discerning fact from fiction grows more difficult each day. The convenience and speed of generative AI make it easier for audiences to accept and share information without examination. However, the perils of using incorrect data, which range from operational shortfalls and security threats to public relations crises and financial losses, can ruin organizations.

“The increasing amounts of misinformation with which we are all confronted today – including from AI errors – can undermine our problem-solving efforts,” said Risa Mish, professor of practice of management. “Now, more than ever, leaders must be able to guide their teams in understanding what we know versus what we are assuming we know.”

According to Mish, AI exists to help us tackle complex issues in a way that balances efficiency, thoroughness and accuracy, but leaders should be willing to learn how to apply the technology responsibly.

“Corporate decision-makers should first work to comprehend core AI concepts. Then start with small-scale projects to test the tech in their operations,” Mish said. “This requires leaders to build cross-functional teams that understand the organization’s strategy and can align AI with goals.”

3. Recognize your biases.

Incorporating machine intelligence into business operations may require leaders to reassess their approach to corporate ethics. AI systems operate on data provided by humans and can perpetuate prejudices as a result. If not carefully monitored, this can lead to unfair outcomes for workers, customers and other stakeholders.

“Leaders need to be aware that we are all susceptible to biases which can negatively impact our decision-making and behavior. We naturally look for, remember, favor and interpret information in a way that confirms our previously held beliefs or values. We also discount or reject information that runs counter to these beliefs and values,” said Michelle Duguid, associate professor and associate dean of diversity, inclusion and belonging.

While AI can expedite decision-making for hiring, business forecasting, surveillance and more, Duguid encourages senior executives and their teams to take precautions against complacency. Instead, firms can develop quality assurance processes to ensure automated outputs meet their corporate standards.

“Senior executives need to be able to think strategically about potential risks and challenges, and make informed decisions that align with the company’s overall goals and values,” said Sauer. “Strategic thinking is a team effort, and the more leaders are able to build teams with diverse opinions and experiences – what we call ‘heterogeneous task cognition’ – the more successful they will be in combating any biases that might creep in with the use of AI and other digital technologies.”

4. Use AI as a supplement, not a replacement.

More than 40% of business owners are concerned about an overdependence on AI, according to a recent Forbes Advisor survey. Automation has the potential to replace human workers in certain roles, leading to job displacement, changes in employment patterns and economic disruption.

“Advances in AI and other digital technologies present businesses with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvent their products and processes,” said Girotra. “At the same time, there are several pitfalls – technologies that do not live up to their promise, new business models that have no feasible path to profitability, the large negative externalities that these innovations place on society. Businesses that blindly embrace these opportunities, or those that are paralyzed by the pitfalls, are unlikely to survive.”

Looking at AI as a tool with capabilities and limits, and creating a builder culture, Girotra says, is key in taking advantage of the opportunities.

Elizabeth Mannix, Ann Whitney Olin professor of management agrees. When leaders have self-awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses – and they are cognizant of their impact on others – they can lead with intention and create an environment in which their team members can thrive alongside AI.”

 

Faculty from Cornell University have designed online certificate programs on a variety of in-demand leadership, technology, business and finance topics, including change management and digital transformation. An AI strategy certificate from the SC Johnson College of Business is also available online through eCornell.

Cornell Tech launches new product, technology leadership program

Students at Cornell Tech

As the demand for product managers and tech executives continues to grow, Cornell Tech has purposefully designed a flagship Product and Tech Executive Leadership Program in collaboration with eCornell, offering professionals a unique opportunity to enhance their leadership skills and take their tech innovation strategies to the next level. The program aims to equip participants with the necessary expertise to navigate the rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Designed for mid and senior-level product managers, engineering leaders and technology professionals with experience leading teams, the three-day immersive program will take place Sept. 19 to 21, 2023, at Cornell Tech in New York, NY.

Read the full story on the Cornell Chronicle.

Cornell debuts biotech, pharma management program

Networking at Cornell Tech

As biotechnology and pharmaceutical professionals continue efforts to make advances in medicinal drug formulation, safety and efficacy, experts in the field are implementing innovations to address regulatory hurdles, research costs and global health challenges.

The new Biotech and Pharmaceutical Management Program offered through the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy is designed to give leaders the opportunity to explore industry trends and cutting edge research with a cohort of peers, executives and renowned faculty from the university.

Read the full story on the Cornell Chronicle.

Pre-college big data certificate offered free to Cornell community

Close-up of hands typing on a laptop

A new pre-college certificate program designed to help high school students develop data analysis skills complementary to a wide range of academic and professional fields will be offered at no cost to the children of Cornell faculty and staff and underserved students nominated by local high schools and other partners.

“Big Data for Big Policy Problems,” offered by eCornell in collaboration with Cornell’s Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy and the School of Continuing Education, is a rigorous, non-credit version of the course offered to Cornell students.

Read the full story on the Cornell Chronicle.

New Cornell certificate emphasizes dialogue in DEI

Photo of group dialogue with one young woman facing camera.

In 2020, hiring for diversity, equity and inclusion roles surged. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, three years later – amid recession fears – companies are cutting DEI leadership positions at a rapid and disproportionate rate, leaving practitioners to seek new ways of continuing efforts to create welcoming work environments.

Dialogue for Change, a new online certificate program from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Intergroup Dialogue Project (IDP) delivered through eCornell, provides a fresh approach to DEI for team managers and supervisors, executives and all employees interested in building equitable cultures.

“The certificate focuses on four key development areas: human connection, social identity, intergroup communication and strategic change,” said Adi Grabiner-Keinan, executive director for academic DEI education and director of the IDP. “Our goals are to develop participants’ awareness around the four development areas and to strengthen their capacity to make meaningful change at personal, interpersonal and institutional levels.”

Together with Lisa Nishii, vice provost for undergraduate education and professor in the Cornell ILR School, Grabiner-Keinan is co-author of the Dialogue for Change certificate. The duo intends for the program to help professionals promote sustainable institutional change no matter their position on the organizational chart.

In three courses – Counteracting Unconscious Bias, Dialogue Across Difference and Strategic Influence – participants learn and practice skills for intentional connection and communication, and examine ways to impact change in different spheres of influence, including within their teams and organizations. These skills, according to Grabiner-Keinan, are crucial well beyond the field of DEI.

“Skills such as active and generative listening, strategic questioning, purposeful sharing, perspective-taking, withholding judgment and questioning assumptions allow us to lead, communicate and collaborate effectively,” Grabiner-Keinan said. “They enable us to broaden our perspective, learn from a variety of people and situations, bring people together, think creatively and create meaning and vision. Unfortunately, such skills are seldom taught in schools or colleges.”

Dialogue for Change engages students in weekly live sessions. Trained IDP facilitators guide participants through practice conversations within small groups of experts and peers. Each dialogue builds on earlier coursework, enabling the cohort to use new knowledge in real time. Students who complete the program earn professional development credit hours toward human resources and project management certifications.

Each student who earns the Dialogue for Change certificate, Grabiner-Keinan says, will recognize their power to foster inclusion, connection and equity in any role. “An integral part of this program is to identify the agency and responsibility that each of us has. It’s true that leaders and supervisors have more power in institutions, but this program helps people understand that they all have power to make change interpersonally and institutionally within their workplaces.”

The Dialogue for Change certificate program is now enrolling students. Visit the program website to learn more.

eCornell, non-profit partners tackle economic mobility

Inside the bustling Bethel Gospel Assembly and Beth-Hark Christian Counseling Center in Harlem, Minister Lyneese Straws responds to a daily rush of requests from congregants, volunteers and community members. Each person gets her full attention.

She understands that even brief interactions can change lives.

More than a decade ago, Straws transitioned from receiving services from New York-based not-for-profit Dress for Success to volunteering for the organization — just in time for its collaboration with QVC for the first National Makeover Day. As cosmetics entrepreneur Bobbi Brown applied her makeup, Straws shared that she possessed a cosmetology license and education in business: the right foundation for a beauty marketing career.

“It was unbelievable when Bobbi asked, ‘Are you working now?’ I said no,” Straws recalled. “She said, ‘Good. Now you work for me.’”

An interview in the same week secured Straws’ nine years of employment with Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. When the role ended — on the verge of the COVID-19 pandemic — she relied on severance, investments and unemployment payments, and struggled to maintain housing for her family. She returned to volunteering, this time through Bethel Gospel Assembly’s food pantry and soup kitchen at Beth-Hark.

“I’d been volunteering for six months. Beth-Hark’s former operations manager, Kendall Glaspie, under the guidance of Executive Director Michelle P. Robinson, saw leadership skills in me and asked if I wanted to participate in a pilot program with eCornell,” Straws said. “Earlier in the year, I saw an ad for eCornell and I looked at courses, but I didn’t have the funding. When opportunities like that fall in your lap, you know it’s purpose. It’s by design.”

United Way of New York City, a Beth-Hark partner, is one of several organizations participating in eCornell Transform. The new program gives working adults from underserved communities no-cost access to online courses and certificates from Cornell University, powered by eCornell, with the core goal of supporting economic mobility for all.

“The eCornell Transform program is unique because it taps into existing relationships, through our nonprofit partners, to determine a community’s workforce needs and identify adults who could meet those needs with additional training and support,” said Joanne Troutman, director of social impact programs for eCornell. “By extending educational opportunities from Cornell to those who otherwise would not have access, we aim to help individuals upskill and forge career paths that earn a living wage.”

eCornell recently completed its pilot of the Transform program, which ran in partnership with a handful of nonprofit organizations across the country, with a particular focus in New York state. With successful results across the board, eCornell now plans to secure additional partner funding and expand the program to participants in more locations.

Through the Transform program, Straws completed the Cornell project leadership certificate. The program’s six courses and live study group prepare students to influence teams, leverage emotional intelligence, drive project outcomes and foster healthy conflict. Straws’ favorite course, “Leading Project Teams,” offered her a forum of peers to discuss her work experience and ways to apply her new skills.

After completing the project leadership program last fall, she was promoted from volunteer to pantry and soup kitchen manager. In addition to ensuring smooth day-to-day operations for consumers, Straws performs administrative duties related to the center’s grants and food deliveries.

“I learned so much from the leadership certificate with Cornell. It taught me about myself and how to deal with others in team settings,” she said. “I’ve been able to use what I learned in running the pantry, and I manage over 15 volunteers in a week. It’s about getting to know the volunteers and the consumers, calling them by their names, knowing their faces, developing relationships and serving everyone in excellence.”

Earning the project leadership certificate has been vital in helping Straws serve her larger community as well. She employs skills from the program at Bethel Gospel Assembly where she co-directs ministries for adults and teens, during team ministry engagements at Horizon Juvenile Center in the Bronx and in her own marketing consulting business, Just Jump Brandstorming.

Her next step is to complete studies for a real estate license as she develops plans to create a one-stop-shop transitional housing complex that will also offer makeovers, counseling, pantry services and more.

She also hopes to complete additional certificates through eCornell.

“These are all pieces of a puzzle to make the vision come to fruition. Being a part of the Transform program opened doors for me,” Straws said. “It was invaluable because I was able to apply it to so many areas of my life — in ministry, in helping the community, within myself. In every moment, God allows me to be a part of the bigger picture, which is to help rebuild someone’s life.”

Crypto Regulation: Can Securities Laws Keep Pace with Innovation?

Nearly everyone agrees that the crypto asset market needs more robust regulation, but there is much disagreement about what the laws should look like as well as who should be legislating and enforcing them.

One key concern is whether crypto assets are commodities or securities, which raises crucial issues about which governing organization should be responsible for oversight and enforcement. Additionally, laws are struggling to keep pace with technological innovation, thereby increasing the potential for scams, fraud and poor practice.

Charles Whitehead, Myron C. Taylor Alumni Professor of Business Law at Cornell Law School and author of Cornell’s Securities Law certificate, discussed the shifting regulatory environment around crypto and what’s next for the revolutionary technology in a recent webcast, “Crypto Regulation: Can Securities Laws Keep Pace with Innovation?”

In the U.S., there are several regulatory bodies overseeing crypto assets. Does this make sense, and if not, why?

It’s referred to as the regulatory alphabet here in the United States: SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission), CFTC (Commodity Futures Trading Commission), OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency), CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). It’s a reflection of the way in which we think historically about how to regulate the industry. The problem is that over time the historical distinctions have fallen away. What may or may not be a banking practice can now pop up in the securities industry. The way we think about regulation and the industry has changed over time, largely reflecting the innovation in the industry itself. Crypto is highlighting a fundamental flaw with the U.S approach to financial regulation, which is that we don’t have a central regulator.

There needs to be a focus on anti-fraud. There needs to be a focus on protecting consumers. The real debate is who is going to do this. I would suggest it’s the SEC.

Why is the SEC uniquely positioned to oversee this?

The SEC is a consumer financial regulator. Their fundamental goal is to protect consumers. They were set up with a view toward protecting retail investors. The regulations that the SEC has for broker dealers, exchanges and people that take custody of these assets were intended to protect investors against the things that you see with FTX: people losing money and the scams that are out there right now. The SEC already has a toolkit, and it makes sense for the SEC to pick this up.

Is crypto more like a currency than a security? It seems like that is how it’s being used or advertised. Why not categorize it that way?

If I were taking crypto and buying a sandwich with it, that would look much more like a currency. That is something that really doesn’t need the protections of the securities laws. To the extent that it’s being used as a way to promote investment, it begins to look a lot more like a security.

Crypto assets are used primarily as speculative investments, which is not in line with the stated vision of most projects out there. How should regulators navigate this?

The whole rationale behind crypto assets was decentralization — a way to create a non-centralized, non-government-controlled medium of exchange across multiple parties. The vision was that it would provide banking attributes without necessarily having a bank, that you’d be able to use crypto assets as a means to support parts of the community that otherwise were not being properly supported by the financial industry. That’s largely not been the case. You can argue that in some cases people pursuing crypto deals are taking advantage of the folks that crypto initially was intended to support.

There will come a time when crypto will begin to look more like a commodity or more like a currency. In that case, the need for regulation drops away. We’re just not there yet. There should be a regulator focused on consumer protection precisely because of the scams.

One of the throughlines here is technological innovation. Law is unable to keep pace, and that creates an environment with increasing potential for fraud like what we saw with Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

FTX is a huge blow to the integrity of the industry just because FTX was viewed as the safe place in which you could do trading activity. The other part is it was done offshore in the Bahamas, so it was being done away from the direct regulatory oversight that you might otherwise see. A large part of what was happening there would have been either prohibited or regulated were we to treat these underlying instruments as securities.

You can’t trust the markets to police themselves. This is a common view that the market will police itself, and that if there had been a problem with FTX, it would have been uncovered much earlier because the market or participants in the market would have seen this. In an enthusiastic market like crypto, you don’t see that type of oversight.

As of August 2022, whitehouse.gov. tells us that the estimates of the total global electricity usage for crypto assets are between 120 and 240 billion kilowatt hours per year. Is there any push to regulate this side of things?

There already are rules in place and government groups like the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency that have the ability to step in, look at the issues and potentially regulate the usage of electricity, consistent with their mandate for environmental protection and energy conservation.

I would ask not whether we should look at this but whether we’re being broad enough. If electricity is an issue and energy is an issue for crypto, let’s look at the New York Stock Exchange and stocks and bonds that are trading. I believe there are huge amounts of energy being expended there as well.

Want more? Explore Charles Whitehead’s Securities Law certificate program delivered by eCornell.

This post has been edited for length and clarity.

Hear more from Whitehead in the webcast “Crypto Regulation: Can Securities Laws Keep Pace with Innovation?”