by Maria Ann Roglieri
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company with headquarters in Tarrytown, has taken over sponsorship of the national high school science competition, the Science Talent Search (formerly the Intel Science Talent Search). Regeneron was selected by the Society for Science & the Public (known as The Society) from among 50 companies because of its steady commitment to mentoring young scientists.
Led by two former participants in the Science Talent Search (Chief Executive Officer Leonard Schleifer and Chief Scientific Officer George D. Yancopoulos, both participating in the 1970’s), Regeneron has committed $100 million over the course of 10 years to support the Science Talent Search and other Society programs.
The Science Talent Search has been running since World War II, originally sponsored by Westinghouse Electric (1942-1997) and then Intel (1998-2016). So far, it has provided more than $25 million in awards to over 8,500 students and schools. Each year, approximately 1,800 applicants present their science projects in the competition. Typically, 300 semifinalists are invited to proceed and 40 finalists are invited to Washington, DC. The finalists go to Washington for a week, where their projects are judged, and they meet with each other and leaders in science and government (often including the President).
Effective immediately, Regeneron is increasing the total award package to $3.1 million a year (almost double from previous years), increasing the highest award to $250,000, and doubling the awards for the top 300 young scientists and their schools to $2,000 each. In addition, Regeneron will spend $30 million to reach out to young scientists in underserved areas, mentoring them and helping them write their applications and participate in the contest. Finally, the company will also support the creation and publication of science news to 4,000 high schools.
Regeneron has been voted one of the best companies in the country to work for (Fortune magazine) and has been growing steadily in Tarrytown over the last few years. Last November, the company added nearly 300,000 square feet of laboratory and office space including two new buildings. It currently employs 2,300 people at the Tarrytown campus, of which approximately 109 live in Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, and Irvington. It is a company that discovers, invents, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines for the treatment of serious medical conditions.
Regeneron commercializes medicines for eye diseases, high LDL-cholesterol, and a rare inflammatory condition and has product candidates in development in other areas of high unmet medical needs, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, atopic dermatitis, pain and infectious diseases.
Locally, Regeneron has been supporting students to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields for a while. It sponsors the BioBus, a community lab on wheels, which is essentially a research-grade mobile science laboratory aboard a “green” 1974 school bus. The BioBus brings hands-on science research and discovery experiences to local public schools and has visited the Sleepy Hollow district on numerous occasions. Regeneron has also sponsored about 200 high schools in local science competitions and takes on approximately 20 high school students per year in the Westchester area in the Science Research Mentorship Program.
Currently, two Sleepy Hollow High School (SHHS) students are participating in the program.
One of SHHS’s Science Research teachers, Michele Zielinski, said, “Regeneron has been very supportive of the science research in our school in multiple ways; employees often mentor projects and/or volunteer as judges at the Westchester Science and Engineering Fair (WESEF) SHHS practice night, etc.”
Overall, Regeneron’s outreach efforts have inspired countless students to pursue careers in STEM fields. Liz Sobolik, a Sleepy Hollow High School graduate and now a Columbia student, has worked at Regeneron as a high school intern for the past two summers, and is doing so again this summer as a college intern. She said, “The experience of working at Regeneron inspired me to become a scientist. I was able to make the transition from trying to learn facts in school to actually applying them in the lab, which gave me a clear picture of how my life could be as a research scientist. My mentors at Regeneron were and still are extremely committed and encouraging.”