Three of the teams received financial awards, but all 17 learned from the accelerator experience.
The inaugural session of the Dartmouth Innovations Accelerator for Cancer, a partnership between the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, has concluded. Three out of the 17 participating teams received monetary awards, and all of them left better prepared to bring biotech innovations to market.
The ten-week program ran throughout the spring term, providing 41 faculty and students the opportunity to learn about translating their technologies from the lab to the market. At the conclusion of the program, an external review panel of successful biomedical entrepreneurs and investors chose three winners.
The top prize of $300,000 was awarded to Arti Gaur, assistant professor of neurology at Geisel, Jordan Isaacs, Guarini '24, and Divya Ravi, Guarini '24, both PhD students in the Cancer Biology Program. The team is working on an anti-estrogen compound that will attack the most deadly brain cancers.
“The Dartmouth Accelerator provided not only capital, but an educational program that has been indispensable in preparing our team to commercialize our novel therapeutic,” Isaacs says.
Over the course of the accelerator, the team learned about business processes including refining a pitch deck, navigating regulatory spaces and defining their business endeavor to potential investors. Although that’s not typically the realm of biomedical researchers, they are all skills needed to ensure that a technology reaches its end goal of impacting the lives of patients.
“To make a difference in patient lives, academic inventions must actually make it to the patient setting rather than remain in a laboratory,” Isaacs says. “The Accelerator has provided the training and funding to help investigators at the NCCC bridge this gap.”
The team will use the prize money to fund dose optimization and pharmacology studies, which are necessary before the technology enters clinical trials.
“Our ultimate goal is to improve the outcome for glioma patients, and the Dartmouth Innovations Accelerator for Cancer funding will get us closer towards achieving that feat,” Isaacs says.
The prize money is a stepping stone to further the innovation and move toward additional funding, Gaur told Dartmouth-Hitchcock
"For three and half years, I have pieced together funding for this project," she says. "This award will help us get to the next phase, where we can potentially attract the big money that will be needed for clinical trials."
A team with Michael Cole, a professor of molecular and systems biology at Geisel and Edmond J. Feris, Guarini '19, research associate at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, took second place and $100,000 in funding. Cole and Feris are working on inhibitors for MYC, a gene that promotes cancers including breast, lung and colon cancers.
Jiwon Lee, the Ralph and Marjorie Crump Assistant Professor of Engineering at Thayer led a team comprised of Seungmin Shin, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, and Nicholas Curtis, PhD candidate and National Science Foundation graduate fellow at Thayer. They were awarded $50,000 to advance a technology platform that will be used for screening new cancer drugs.
Although the funding is important, the skills imparted in the workshop are just as critical, according to Gaur, of the first-place team.
"I wish I had taken a course like this 10 years ago," she said. “I have seen my approach and thought process evolve as a result of the Accelerator, to think in a more systematic, comprehensive way about bringing a new therapy or technology to patients.”