Polsky Center Hires Christine Karslake, MBA ’95, to Manage University of Chicago’s Portfolio of Science and Technology Ventures

Christine Karslake

Christine Karslake, PhD, MBA ’95, joins the Polsky Center as the new managing director of Polsky Science Ventures.

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago has hired Christine Karslake, PhD, MBA ’95, as Managing Director of Polsky Science Ventures. In this newly created role, Karslake will lead the formation and launch of new science and technology companies across all fields of research at the University of Chicago.

“The opportunity to join the Polsky Center and manage a diverse portfolio of companies stemming from University of Chicago research was something that deeply aligned with my career interests,” said Karslake. “I have spent the majority of my career finding ways to add value and support the launch and growth of new innovative startups.”

Karslake, a University of Chicago Booth School of Business alumnae, has more than 10 years of venture capital experience and has helped deliver more than $12 billion in incremental value for a variety of life science businesses, including startups and publicly-traded global companies. She has sourced and analyzed more than 3,000 business plans, conducted in depth due diligence on more than 100 deals, invested in approximately 20 companies, and has sat on several boards.

Prior to joining the Polsky Center, Karslake most recently served as CEO of Quest Strategies, a company she founded that provides strategic consulting to high-growth companies. Before that, she served as the Vice President of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and managed the Helix Fund, which provides funding to life science and information technology startups. She also created STL Export Accelerator, the nation’s first accelerator to focus on exporting, managed a regional business plan competition, co-led a movement to coordinate all of St. Louis’ assets to achieve innovation results, and managed five incubators with approximately 800 entrepreneurs.

“I enjoy participating in the greater ecosystem,” said Karslake citing her prior experience in St. Louis. “Chicago is a world-class city and has a strong history of innovation. I look forward to connecting with established partners and members of the venture community to harness all the collective strengths and assets of the region.”

One of the areas Karslake will oversee in her new role is the management of the Polsky Center’s George Shultz Innovation Fund, which invests in promising startups from an ecosystem that includes the University of ChicagoArgonne National LaboratoryFermilab, and the Marine Biological Laboratory. Through this program, University and Lab-affiliated startups and technologies receive guidance and dedicated support from the Polsky Center, business experts, investor committee, and Innovation Fund Associates. Each company pitches for the opportunity to receive up to $250,000 in proof-of-concept funding to support their technology development plan or help reach their next startup milestone. She will also provide oversight of Polsky’s new deep tech accelerator for quantum, data sciences, life sciences, and materials science companies.

Connecting science and technologies with opportunities in business is something Karslake is deeply familiar with. Her business development and vast M&A experience has made Karslake an expert at identifying the most important factors that lead to M&A exits for startups. She has created integration playbooks, facilitated seven integrations, and managed more than 20 alliances. Karslake is also a serial entrepreneur who cofounded a specialty chemicals intermediates business, which successfully exited to Great Lakes Chemical in five years with double digit return on investment.

“We are thrilled to have Christine join the Polsky Center team,” said Bill Payne, PhD, Executive Director of Science and Technology for the Polsky Center. “Her extensive management experience and proven track record will allow us to bring world-class venture support to our University of Chicago research-based startups.”

Karslake received her bachelor’s degree of science in chemistry and biomedical sciences from Western Michigan University, her PhD in chemistry from Purdue University, and her MBA from Chicago Booth.

Therefore, this new role gives Karslake the opportunity to return to her alma mater and continue to tap into her immense experience as a startup founder, scientist, venture coach, investor, and business leader. “I have always operated at the critical intersection of business and science so this gives me a chance to continue to add value and provide guidance through all stages of a company’s growth,” she said.


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