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Philanthropy-Backed Accelerator Advances Cancer Therapies

Apr 15, 2021   |   Dartmouth Communications

Three teams of Dartmouth researchers [including Professor Jiwon Lee's team] have been selected to receive the first awards from the Dartmouth Innovations Accelerator for Cancer.

A philanthropy-funded initiative, the Accelerator was launched in 2020 by Norris Cotton Cancer Center and the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship to bring new cancer treatments to patients more quickly. So far, it has raised $3.3 million in philanthropic gifts and seeks to hit $5 million by June.

"When you look at the number of biotech start-ups that have spun out of our cancer center, it's astounding," says Steven Leach, director of Dartmouth's and Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Norris Cotton Cancer Center and the Preston T. and Virginia R. Kelsey Chair in Cancer at the Geisel School of Medicine. "The Accelerator builds on our culture of collaboration and innovation. In its first year, it has attracted 17 teams, including 41 faculty and students, all eager to turn discoveries into life-changing treatments for cancer patients."

This year's winning teams were selected by an external review panel of successful biomedical entrepreneurs and investors. Teams of faculty and students from across Dartmouth competed in two days of pitches in early April—with strong representation from Geisel, Thayer School of Engineering, the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, and Arts and Sciences. The awards of $300,000, $100,000, and $50,000 will be used by the winning teams to fund critical next steps in the development of high-potential cancer treatments. Those steps are aimed at making their innovations ready for private industry investment and more likely to advance to clinical trials.

Powered by Philanthropy

"It's an honor to support and nurture Dartmouth-wide entrepreneurial ecosystem dedicated to overcoming cancer," says Errik Anderson '00, Thayer '06, Tuck '07, who recently made a leadership gift to the Accelerator and serves on its external review panel. Anderson is CEO and founder of Alloy Therapeutics, founder and managing partner of Ulysses Diversified Holdings, and co-founder of multiple other biotech companies. ...

Beyond Awards

Although only three teams won monetary awards, all participated in a 10-week course in which they learned about biomedical entrepreneurship and regulatory requirements and had to create step-by-step, multiyear plans for the development of their innovations. The course instructors hailed from Simbex and Celdara Medical, two local biomedical companies. ...

... Staffed by the Magnuson Center, the Technology Transfer Office, and graduate and undergraduate student interns, the Accelerator has also helped several teams generate new invention disclosures and patents, meet with venture capital groups, initiate discussions with private companies, and establish connections with successful biomedical entrepreneurs and investors.

The next cohort of Accelerator teams will be selected in fall 2021 and will compete for the second annual awards in spring 2022. Learn more about the program at the Accelerator website.

PhD candidate Nicholas Curtis, Professor Jiwon Lee, and research associate Seungmin Shin work in the Lee Lab at the Williamson Translational Research Building at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. (Photo by Mark Washburn)

$50,000 Quinn Scholar Award

(Named in honor of J. Brian and Allie J. Quinn and their generosity)

Barcoded-Antibody Library for In Vitro Engineering (B-ALIVE)

Project Leads: Jiwon Lee, the Ralph and Marjorie Crump Assistant Professor of Engineering, Thayer; Seungmin Shin, PhD, postdoctoral fellow; and Nicholas Curtis, PhD candidate and National Science Foundation graduate fellow, Thayer

The Innovation: This award will fund the development of a technology platform that will enable more-accurate high-throughput screening of new, more-effective cancer drugs, specifically monoclonal antibodies.

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