Illyasha Peete Named Executive Director of CLS Racial and Social Equity Initiative


Will Lead Organizational Focus on Addressing Racial & Social Equity within Life Sciences Industry.

South San Francisco – June 7, 2021

California Life Sciences is pleased to announce that Illyasha (Illy) Peete has been named Executive Director of the California Life Sciences (CLS) Racial and Social Equity (RSE) Initiative and will lead the collective, statewide RSE strategy, which is delivering an ambitious agenda of action and change.

Illy will help steer the Initiative’s immediate focus on programs that increase STEM opportunities for underrepresented students; promote the hiring, development, and advancement of underrepresented talent; invest in diverse entrepreneurs and board members; and provide underserved communities with equitable access to and coverage for care.

Peete joins CLS from the Center for Excellence in Nonprofits, where she served as the Director of Diversity and Consulting/Training. She brings to the role a wealth of knowledge from her experiences as a transformational nonprofit executive director, corporate trainer, adjunct college professor, and health and fitness manager.  Illy has an MBA in Global Management from Ashford University, and a BS in Business from Western Michigan University.

“We are thrilled to have Illy join our team at California Life Sciences,” said Mike Guerra, CLS President and CEO. “We reviewed a remarkable roster of candidates for this position. In the end, we were compelled by Illy’s unique combination of business and non-profit experience and her lifetime commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. She is ideally suited to lead our diversity strategy.”

The appointment of Peete comes at an important moment for the unified organization, which launched its Racial and Social Equity Initiative in February 2021. Supported by three years of sustained annual $1M funding commitments, CLS and its members will lead and support programs and partnerships that promote change for the underserved and underrepresented, focusing on the most critical need to address the inequality for Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Pacific Islander populations in California.

”I am eager to bring my experience and passion to CLS and this Initiative to work with our member companies and communities to create systemic change that will advance inclusion, diversity, equity, access and liberation in California’s life sciences industry,” said Illyasha (Illy) Peete. “We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but I look forward to helping us realize our ambitious goals for change.”

Several community programs, funded by the RSE Initiative, are currently underway:

  • CLSA Inspire QuickFire Challenge for Diverse Innovators, supported by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Abbvie and 5AM Ventures, awards funding to California-based Black, Hispanic, and Native American entrepreneurs. The winner will also be invited to participate in the FAST Advisory Program, receiving commercialization advising from a tailored group of industry veterans.
  • Conversations with Thought Leaders, which are addressing diversity in clinical trials, vaccinating underserved communities and other health equity issues.
  • NexGENEGirls partner program, providing high school young women of color with (virtual) internships and leadership development, culminating in a Poster Session Gala, during which students will present their summer research.
  • FASTMedTechColor (MTC), inviting a California-based MTC startup to join the Fall 2021 FAST Accelerator program, gaining access to FAST’s intensive team review to perfect their commercialization strategy.
  • RSE Career Connections Summit with Slone Partners ENVISION program, providing underrepresented high school and undergraduate students with practical career navigation tools and connections to help them embark on their science careers, while exposing industry professionals to diverse talent.

To learn more about the CLS Racial and Social Equity Initiative, visit

About California Life Sciences (CLS)

California Life Sciences (CLS) is the state’s most influential and impactful life sciences membership organization, advocating for the sector and its diverse innovation pipeline. For more than 30 years, CLS has served the community by supporting companies of all sizes, from early-stage innovators and startups to established industry leaders in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and medical technology. As integral components of a healthy and collaborative ecosystem, CLS also works closely with universities, academic and research institutions, the investment community, and other critical partners that promote this vibrant sector. With offices in South San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Washington DC, CLS works to shape public policy, improve access to breakthrough technologies, educate lawmakers, and advance equity within our ecosystem by championing innovative solutions for some of the most pressing challenges of our times. In doing so, CLS fulfills its mission to protect and nurture California’s life sciences industry, empowering discoveries that lead to healthier lives around the world. #WeAreCaliforniaLifeSciences

Visit CLS at, and follow us on Twitter @CALifeSciences, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.