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Thayer Teams Receive Funding in Second Cohort of Dartmouth Innovations Accelerator for Cancer

Jul 07, 2022   |   Geisel School of Medicine

The Dartmouth Innovations Accelerator for Cancer (DIAC) — a partnership between the Dartmouth Cancer Center and the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship — was launched in 2020, through the generous donation from alumni following The Call to Lead campaign. To date, more than $5 million in philanthropic donations have been raised to support DIAC's mission of providing Dartmouth teams the resources they need to translate their innovations from the laboratory to the marketplace.

Thirty-five teams have participated in DIAC as part of two cohorts. Simbex, a medical device and consumer health product development and commercialization partner based in the Upper Valley [co-founded by Adjunct Professor of Engineering Rick Greenwald], provides the academic portion of the accelerator, walking teams through the process of biotech innovation. An external review board comprised of biotech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists mentor participants, helping them think not just like scientists, but like entrepreneurs hoping to attract funding to bring their innovations to market.

For participants including Jiwon Lee, the Ralph and Marjorie Crump Assistant Professor of Engineering, the educational and networking opportunities that DIAC provides are invaluable. Teams learn not only how to show the scientific merit of their innovation, but also how to market it to potential investors.

"The best part of participating in the accelerator is being connected with industry leaders and being able to find business mentors," Lee says.

Lee's team is developing an antibody engineering technology platform called B-ALIVE. The platform will allow faster development of novel therapeutic antibodies — in short, getting more potent drugs to patients who need them in order to improve on standard treatments and potentially save lives. The team has participated in DIAC twice, securing funding to advance their idea. Lee plans to participate again next year.

"DIAC has been essential in advancing our nascent yet bold idea into an innovation," he says.

The Griswold Research Group is developing high-throughput screens for evolutionary protein engineering, new strategies for protein deimmunization, enhanced protein expression systems, and powerful antibacterial agents to treat drug-resistant infections. (Photo by John Sherman)

In May, DIAC announced funding awards for the second cohort. Two teams were awarded $150,000 in funding each including a team led by Karl Griswold, professor of engineering. Griswold's team is working on a platform for precision protein engineering for cancer immunotherapy. Griswold will use the award for data collection, with plans to leverage that research to secure more funding from grants and venture capital firms. He feels better equipped to pursue commercialization after participating in DIAC.

"Through regular review and feedback from organizers, reviewers and even competitors, we have a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our technology, value proposition, and current pitch," Griswold says. "The DIAC program is a fantastic resource for the Dartmouth community, and it is a powerful opportunity for Dartmouth researchers to hone their entrepreneurial skills through the lens of the cancer community."

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