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Member Spotlight

February 17, 2021

Caligen Bio Managing Director, Bernard Parker

Bernard Parker, MBA, Managing Director of Caligen Bio, speaks with us about the opportunity to elevate black voices during Black History Month.

Bernard Parker, MBA, Caligen Bio Managing Director

In honor of Black History Month, Biocom California is speaking with a few influential African American leaders in the life sciences on how companies can create diverse workforces to help fuel innovation and novel research.

We caught up with Bernard Parker, MBA, Managing Director of Caligen Bio and Biocom California Board Member to hear what Black History Month means to him and how a certain business pioneer who used his wealth to help support the African American community has been a constant source of inspiration.

Bernard has more than 20 years of corporate strategy, commercialization, corporate development, portfolio/product strategy, and international enterprise leadership experience at large multinational pharmaceutical companies as well as small entrepreneurial biotech firms in roles based in the US, Germany, and Switzerland.

As a seasoned senior executive and advisor to the C-suite, Bernard explains why having a variety of perspectives is essential to business growth.

Can you share with us an early experience that shaped your career in life science?

My first time waiting for a gel electrophoresis to finish running at 1am on a Friday night while working as a scientist at the NIH is certainly one that stands out. The biomedical research I was doing on cardiomyopathies was interesting but working in the lab was isolating. I wanted a faster pace, a dynamic environment, and an opportunity to make a broad impact…while also being around people! Hence my pivot to the business side of medicine.

Who have been your most influential mentors along the way?

Dr. James Cash, Bill George, and Russ Hagey have been invaluable mentors to me—being a sounding board, opening doors, and offering guidance both professionally and personally.


Is there a black historical figure who has inspired you?

Reginald Lewis: visionary entrepreneur who attained success at the highest levels of global business through a combination of intellect, strategic acumen, leadership, and will. On top of his personal accomplishments, he reached back to help countless others through philanthropy and mentoring.

How can we cultivate a more diverse and inclusive life science industry?

Place value on having a broad range of perspectives around the table, and actively seek them out. Don’t compromise. Hold each other accountable.

“It’s a transformative period in time, and the best is yet to come.”

What excites you most about our industry and where it’s headed?

The potential to more effectively treat—and perhaps cure—the most devastating diseases using precision medicine approaches, cell and gene therapy, and machine learning. We are extending the length and improving the quality of lives across the globe through leveraging technology and our ever-improving understanding of genomics, chemistry, and biology. It’s a transformative period in time, and the best is yet to come.

“Black History Month is a time to learn, grow, reflect, and celebrate.”

Any last words you’d like to share about Black History Month and what it means to you?

Carter G. Woodson intended its precursor (Negro History Week, launched in 1926) to be a showcase that shined a spotlight on remarkable achievements and contributions to society made by Black Americans that may otherwise have been overlooked. One week wasn’t enough, so President Gerald Ford adopted it in 1976 as a one-month national observance. Black History Month is a time to learn, grow, reflect, and celebrate. An opportunity to start conversations, share knowledge, educate, and open minds. I look forward to it every year.