TRACK A- Future of Georgia:

Talent Engagement: Models for Cultivating, Recruiting, and Retaining Skilled Professionals In Georgia

Georgia harbors exceptional educational institutions and is burgeoning with investments in innovative technologies, products, and companies. By fostering an environment in which smart, creative, and driven people flourish in their endeavors we will sustain the growth of our innovation ecosystem. This panel seeks to discuss and brainstorm paths through which to do so. 

Barry Etra,​ MBA
President, Keiretsu Forum Atlanta

Barry Etra is passionate about the Atlanta entrepreneurial ecosystem. He runs two investment forums in town (The RAISE Forum and the Keiretsu Forum) that match up investors and entrepreneurs in unique ways, helping to ensure that local companies remain. As well, he does business development for Kickr Design, a peerless prototyping and design firm in West Midtown. Barry got his BA and his MBA from Columbia University.

Kornelius Bankston, MBA, MSc.,
Managing Partner at techPLUG

Kornelius is the managing partner of techPLUG. He leads the firm’s strategy and business development efforts. He’s a graduate of Morehouse College (BSc. Chemistry), Emory University (MSc. Biomolecular Chemistry) and the Georgia Institute of Technology (MBA- Management of Technology). Korrnelius is a lead partner with the Intentionally Good Project and a board member of Southeast BIO.


After graduating from Emory University, Kornelius worked for a startup founded by Dr. Dennis Liotta as a business development intern. He went on to become a project manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development where he worked to help recruit Baxter (now known as Takeda) to Georgia. He moved on to manage Morehouse School of Medicine’s first Office of Technology Transfer and Office of Industry Sponsored Clinical trials.  He was able to help underserved populations who traditionally do not participate in clinical trials to become more engaged in clinical research. Kornelius served as the director of bioscience ecosystem expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber where he worked to recruit bioscience companies to the Metro Atlanta region.  While at the Metro Atlanta Chamber he launched Global Health ATL,, to promote Atlanta as the Center for Global Health. Most recently, Kornelius served as the director of business development for Color Genomics leading the company’s southeast business development efforts.  Color Genomics is a Silicon Valley based biotech company.

Brent Furse​, MBA
CEO & President, Vero Biotech

Brent Furse has served as a Director and  Chief Executive Officer and President of Vero Biotech since June 2016. Prior to coming to Vero Biotech, Mr. Furse was a key member of the The Medicines Company leadership team where he joined in 2000 pre-IPO and served as a section 16 Officer. He held various leadership positions including Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Commercial Officer, Vice President and General Manager Interventional Medicine, Vice President Surgery and Perioperative Care, and Vice President of Sales and Marketing. He was responsible for the launch and success of their flagship product Angiomax, and countless successful partnerships and operational excellence.  In addition to his success at The Medicines Company, Brent has held leadership positions with Centers for Disease Control, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Schering Plough Corporation, and serves on the board of Anthera Pharmaceuticals, The Special Olympics and Salus Tele-health. 

Phil Gibson, PhD
Director of the Georgia BioScience Training Center, Georgia Quick Start

Philip G. Gibson, Ph.D., is the Director of the Georgia BioScience Training Center for Georgia Quick Start. The training center is designed to train employees in life science industries. It is a state-of-the-art training center capable of delivering biomanufacturing training on large scale equipment typical to the biomanufacturing industry. Additionally, quality laboratory, quality assurance, warehousing, and maintenance training are all delivered at the center. The center utilizes wireless and paperless-based instruction with hands-on focused curriculum.


Dr. Gibson was an instructor at Gwinnett Technical College from 1989 to 2014. He taught a wide range of topics including; biochemistry, nucleic acids, proteins, laboratory methods, instrumental methods of analysis, laboratory safety, biotechnology seminar, and regulatory compliance. Students relied upon Dr. Gibson for advisement, career counseling and job placement.


Dr. Gibson worked collaboratively through Gwinnett Technical College and Athens Technical College to develop educational opportunities for students interested in science and math-based careers. A 1.99 million dollar Community-Based Job Training Grant (CBJTG) from the US Department of Labor awarded in December of 2006 funded several initiatives relating to bioscience. The Bioscience Program at Gwinnett Technical College was created through the CBJTG. This program was developed and grew under Dr. Gibson’s direction. During this period, the State of Georgia developed regional, industry-focused grants which included math and science educational initiatives. Dr. Gibson participated in the delivery of teacher training and development of curriculum under portions of 0.9 million dollars in State grant funding.


Dr. Gibson has written and published a novel. He and his wife have three children and live in Athens, Georgia. He has been the recipient of the 2000-01 President’s Award at Gwinnett Technical College, 1987-88 President’s Award at John Wieland Homes and the Quality Award FY ’94, FY ’95, FY ’96, July ‘98, FY ’98, and FY ’99. In 2007, Dr. Gibson received the Georgia Green Industry Association’s Educator of the Year Award, which is the highest honor bestowed on green industry educators in the State of Georgia. The Georgia Green Industry Association (GGIA) is a non-profit trade association, incorporated in the State of Georgia, representing the interests of the State's nursery, garden center and landscape industry.

Grace Gowda​, PhD
Director, International Biomedical Regulatory Sciences Program, University of Georgia

Grace Gowda is the Program Director of the graduate studies in International Biomedical Regulatory Sciences within the College of Pharmacy, University of Georgia. Prior to joining University of Georgia, she was at Merial, now part of Boehringer Ingelheim where she held various leadership positions within regulatory affairs. 


Grace has a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Texas at Austin, a Masters in Pharmacy from Nagpur University and Bachelor’s in Pharmacy from University of Madras, India. Her 25+ years of Pharmaceutical experience includes product development, basic research in neuroscience, clinical research in mental health, targeted drug delivery, clinical trials, CMC, registration and maintenance of animal health products and regulatory policy.  She has Regulatory Affairs Certification and is passionate in developing and mentoring the next generation of regulatory professionals.  


Academically, Grace has mentored graduate students and taught various courses over the past 25+ years. Recently, she was elected to serve on the board of the Association of Graduate Regulatory Educators.  She is currently the Chair of the Animal Drug Section at the Animal Health Institute, an US trade association and co-chair of the Regulatory Strategy team in Health for Animals, a global trade association. She has represented the US animal health industry in VICH and in three animal health user fee negotiations with FDA. She has also held leadership positions in professional associations including Atlanta Chapter Board of the Healthcare Business Women’s Association and American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

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