Denise Bronner
Understanding how the immune system can shape the microbiome

Note: Denise Bronner was a Business Development Fellow in 2017/18. This interview was conducted in fall 2017.

Denise Bronner earned a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from the University of Michigan. Her postdoctoral research involves generating novel and amenable therapeutics that increase the prosperity of individuals who suffer from impaired microbiome-related diseases. This interview was conducted in fall 2017.

In a nutshell, describe your project or venture.

My research project focuses on understanding how the immune system can shape the microbiome.

What’s important about your research or project—and where do you hope to take it?

The human microbiome is a complex ecosystem that has a tremendous impact on health by modulating metabolism and immunity programming. Recent studies have linked an impaired microbiome to several diseases, including Crohn’s disease, allergies, coeliac disease, obesity and others.  Thus, elucidating the host-microbial pathways can help generate novel and amendable therapeutics that can increase the prosperity of many individuals who suffer from impaired microbiome-related diseases.

What are you most passionate about in your work?

It is fascinating to discover that we have bacteria living in our gut and that without them our life would be so different. They help with digestion, metabolism and protection against pathogens. I’m passionate about identifying who our warriors are and how we can protect them and provide the best environment for them.

What was the most important thing you learned at the Entrepreneurship Academy?

There were two things: stand firm in your creative confidence and learn how to build a network that will help push your idea forward. By removing your fears of taking the first step, you can tap into the potential of your idea. With proper assessment and courage, you can find individuals who have the abilities you lack to help your idea take root.

What is the most unexpected advice you received from a mentor?

My graduate advisor once told me, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every single time.” Those words have replayed numerous times in the back of my head. This advice was brought to the forefront by my two professors in the Business Development Fellows fall quarter classes. If you don’t try, then you will never know what could have been. It’s better to say “I tried” than to wonder “What if.”

Do you plan to participate in the Big Bang! Business Competition or “just” the workshops? How do you expect this to help you as an aspiring entrepreneur?

I do plan to participate in the Big Bang! competition and workshops using an idea that helps breweries turn their food waste (aka spent grain) into nutritious treats for both humans and dogs. Big Bang! is giving me first-hand experience in how to start a business and how to self-assess if the idea is a good one.

How will your experiences as a Business Development Fellow help you to change the world?

I believe the Business Development Fellows program will give me first-hand experience in navigating the business environment by strengthening my business language and acumen to make me a competitive candidate for consulting and industry positions.