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Young Leader of the Americas Initiative assigns Costa Rican Fellow to Likarda

by Emily McVey | Nov 21, 2018

Kansas City, MO – Global resources and partnerships in the KC Animal Health Corridor connected scientific workforce talent from Costa Rica with one of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial animal health companies. Dr. Priscilla Ortiz, interested in cell therapy, was assigned as a fellow to Likarda, an animal health company working on new cell therapy options for dogs with diabetes, through the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI).

The YLAI Professional Fellows program is a 5-week program for entrepreneurs, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by Meridian International Center. YLAI brings 250 promising leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean each year to the United States to expand their leadership and entrepreneurial skills and network through skills-building workshops and opportunities to learn from and exchange with U.S. counterparts. This program is open to young entrepreneurs 25-35 years of age, selected for participation via a competitive application process. Global Ties KC is the implementing partner for 14 Fellows in Kansas City from September 20-October 22.

Global Ties KC has over a 60-year history of working in partnership with the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, bringing visitors to Kansas City on over 40 unique programs every year. Global Ties KC promotes citizen diplomacy through person-to-person contact that helps shape United States foreign relations "one handshake at a time." By bringing these leaders to Kansas City, they highlight the amazing diversity of public and private resources located within the Midwest. Furthermore, Global Ties KC facilitates direct connections between prominent international leaders and their United States counterparts.

“There was no question in our mind that we were a good fit for Dr. Ortiz and she was a good fit for us”, explains Dr. Lisa Stehno-Bittel, president of Likarda after reviewing her application and resume. The match had to be approved by the YLAI governing board, but once made, the Likarda scientists and Dr. Ortiz began communicating.  First, Likarda sent publications to Dr. Ortiz to read to help acquaint her with their procedures.  That was followed by teleconferences where they could discuss her goals and the opportunities present in the Likarda labs. 

The YLAI program assists fellows with the development of their business pitch and business plan and, in Dr. Ortiz’s case, gain more experience in a laboratory setting with fat-derived stem cells.  Dr. Ortiz assisted the Likarda team by observing and participating in experiments with stem cells and islet transplants for dogs and cats.  Likarda scientist, Dr. Lindsey Ott, was assigned as Dr. Ortiz’s scientific mentor, Dr. Karthik Ramachandran served as her business advisor and Dr. Lisa Stehno-Bittel worked with her on career development. 

“Likarda has made me feel like I was part of the team since day one.  They have helped me grow and develop scientifically and made me feel valued as a professional and as a person. I will always be grateful to this team,” said Dr. Ortiz of her time at Likarda.

In addition to Dr. Ortiz’s assigned work, the Likarda team encouraged her to publish in scientific journals much of the work she completed as a veterinary clinician using stem cells for a variety of disorders in horses, cats and dogs. Presently, Dr. Ortiz is writing a case study focused on two horses with the same rare parasitic infection, S. neurona, which causes severe neurological deficits. In addition, she designed a study focusing on the methods of stem cell processing, and together with the Likarda R&D team, will complete the study with plans to publish the data in the future.

“Having Dr. Ortiz in the lab with us has been a great opportunity.  She has provided great insight into our stem cell work, and she has great passion.”  Dr. Stehno-Bittel explains that it is certainly a win-win program.  “We have gained as much, if not more, from Dr. Ortiz being at Likarda for a month, than she may have gotten from us.”

About Likarda LLC
Likarda LLC is a biotech research laboratory that combines early-phase discovery research with consultative and analytical services, which provides a place for science entrepreneurs, partners for bio consortiums and contract research organizations. Likarda lowers costs for pets and humans by improving health-care outcomes with market disruptive technologies. For more information, visit

About Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative

The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) builds linkages between young leaders across the hemisphere. YLAI addresses the opportunity gap for youth, especially women, by empowering business and social entrepreneurs with the training, tools, networks and resources they need to transform their societies and contribute more fully to economic development and prosperity, security, human rights and good governance in the hemisphere. For more information, visit YLAI.

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