By Jong Eun Jung
Aaron Laviana (EMBA’20) worked as a resident physician at UCLA and then became a fellow at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center before deciding to enroll in business school. While he was at UCLA, he noticed that there was a trend of people choosing organic food and products. He also had detailed conversations with people who were anti-vax, and came to the realization that the reason why many of them were against vaccines was usually the products inside the vaccines, rather than the shots themselves.
Laviana combined his observations and came up with an idea of creating vaccines made out of only organic ingredients. “Many of the claims (about vaccines) are unsubstantiated, but (vaccines do) have antibiotics. They have animal products. They have preservatives inside these vaccines, and (I) just came to realize that there’s probably a huge market out there… (for) a new vaccine that doesn’t have any of these products,” he said.
Laviana was able to further explore his idea through the Launching the Venture class, which is taught during year two to both the Executive Edge and Global Immersion tracks. In the class, student teams develop a business plan for a startup or an expansion into new areas and present their ideas to venture capital firms for financing. Along with his Global Immersion track teammates Esteban Tirado, Pete Koat, Heathie Cox, and Bruna Mendes, Laviana created CleanVax, a business that provides organic vaccines.
Creating an organic vaccine and marketing it was a unique idea for the Launching the Venture class. “There was some hesitation — we kept thinking this could be so much easier if we pursue some product that we can sell in store, and we can easily calculate the cost of goods sold and the price point, but it’s different, it’s a challenge and (we) decided to go with it,” Laviana said. The CleanVax team immersed themselves into intensive research and networking to develop Laviana’s idea. By collaborating with Creative Biolabs, Laviana’s team were successful in developing a vaccine from organic products.
Although Laviana was the only student with a background in medicine, the rest of the team provided the business knowledge to help make CleanVax a reality. “Everyone contributed in a totally unique way. So in order for the project to be successful you need market research, financial modeling, figure out a way to get partners, do our management risk, strategy planning, do our persona based marketing,” Laviana explained.
In addition, the Launching the Venture curriculum taught the CleanVax team how to start a business, while the Walker Management Library expanded their research resources. “All the data and giving us resources (helped) from a market research standpoint. Google can only take you so far. And just having those libraries to sort of help us with where to tap into for resources was pivotal,” Laviana said.
Looking forward, the next step for CleanVax is to acquire the finances to purchase vaccines and launch their business. “If we don’t make that vaccine, somebody’s going to make it in the next 10 years. So why not go for it and see if we can do something unique here,” Laviana said.