Avon Foundation for Women, NIH, and The Center for Advancing Innovation launch start-up challenge to advance breast cancer biomedical inventions; student and entrepreneur mentor teams to develop strategic business plan and launch biotech start-up

  • Posted: September 19, 2013
NCI Press Office


A world-wide competition to bring emerging breast cancer technologies to market is being launched by the Avon Foundation for Women, in partnership with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the NIH, and the Center for Advancing Innovation.  The Avon Foundation will fund $250,000 in grants to launch the Breast Cancer Start-up Challenge aimed at teams of business, legal, medical/scientific, engineering, and computer science students, as well as seasoned entrepreneurs.

The challenge will offer teams the opportunity to create strategic business plans and the potential to start new companies based on the development of 10 unlicensed breast cancer inventions by turning them into commercially marketed products. Breast cancer inventions include therapeutics, diagnostics, prognostics, one device, one vaccine, and a health IT invention, all from the NCI intramural program and Avon Foundation-funded university labs. The challenge will include up to 100 teams—10 teams for each of the 10 inventions— to compete. Each student team will be paired with entrepreneur-mentors to assist in the development of the business plans.

Pink ribbon in the shape of an ampersand with arrow at top pointing upwards

“The Breast Cancer Start-up Challenge is designed to accelerate and increase the volume of breast cancer inventions in development,” said Marc Hurlbert, executive director of the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade.  “In addition to improving public health, we hope to spur economic growth and provide universities a platform to develop their entrepreneurship-learning portfolios.”

The challenge will begin on Oct. 1, 2013, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with a call to universities to establish challenge teams. Teams accepted into the competition will have until January 2014 to submit a business plan for judging. Selected finalists will receive an award of $5,000 and will present a comprehensive business plan. Winning start-ups will be recognized in June 2014. It is anticipated that up to 30 successful start-ups will apply and be awarded funding from venture and other sources, which could range from $100,000 to over 1 million dollars.

Judges for this contest include:

  • Robert Berg, Senior Vice President, IRI
  • Katherine Bowdish, Ph.D., Vice President R&D and Head of Sunrise, Sanofi
  • Kapil Dhingra, MBBS, Managing Member, KAPital Consulting
  • Nick Donofrio, IBM Executive Vice President Innovation and Technology (Retired)
  • Terry J. Fetterhoff, Sr. Director, Head, US Chief Technology Office Diagnostics Division, Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc.
  • Mary Haak-Frendscho, Ph.D. Chief Executive Officer, Ingenica, Inc.
  • Eric Hale, J.D. M.S., MBA, Associate Director, Office of Clinical and Preclinical Development Partnerships, Center for Cancer Research, NCI
  • John D. Hewes, Ph. D. Technology Transfer Specialist, Technology Transfer Center, NCI
  • Marc Hurlbert, Ph.D. Executive Director, Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade
  • Michael King Jolly, Pharm.D. Senior Vice President, Quintiles Innovation
  • Richard Lipkin, Venture Partner at Easton Capital Investment Group
  • James R. McCullough, Chief Executive Officer, Exosome Diagnostics
  • Carol Nacy, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Sequella, Inc.
  • Christine K. Norton, Co-Founder, Minnesota Breast Cancer Coalition
  • Gil Price, M.D., Chief Executive Officer, Drug Safety Solutions
  • Thomas M. Stackhouse, Ph.D. Associate Director, Technology Transfer Center, NCI
  • George F. Tidmarsh, M.D., Ph.D. President, Chief Executive Officer, La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co.
  • Rosemarie Truman Founder and Chief Executive Officer, The Center for Advancing Innovation, INC.

“In addition to making an impact on breast cancer health, I believe this Challenge will fundamentally change the commercialization of NIH innovation and the business model of healthcare philanthropic funding,” said George Tidmarsh, M.D., Ph.D. President, Chief Executive Officer and Secretary, La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co.

“Having worked with several organizations that launched monumental efforts, it's been exciting to see this Herculean startup challenge successfully catalyzed!  I look forward to the outcomes that this Challenge will create,” said Nick Donofrio, a retired IBM Executive Vice President of Innovation and Technology.

“The Business Plan and Start-up Challenge will create a new paradigm to link venture philanthropy and translational research to ignite economic growth and advance public health,” said Rosemarie Truman, founder and CEO of The Center for Advancing Innovation. “The Avon Foundation for Women, the Technology Transfer Center of the NCI and The Center for Advancing Innovation are pioneering novel innovative models to create start-ups for promising inventions arising out of breast cancer research.”

For more information about the Business Plan and Start-up Challenge or to field a team, visit http://www.breastcancerstartupChallenge.com.


About the Avon Foundation for Women

The Avon Foundation for Women, the world’s largest corporate-affiliated philanthropy focused on issues that matter most to women, was founded in 1955 to improve the lives of women. Through 2012, Avon global philanthropy, led by the Avon Foundation, has donated more than $910 million in more than 50 countries for causes most important to women. Today, Avon philanthropy focuses its funding on breast cancer research and access to care through theAvon Breast Cancer Crusade, and efforts to reduce domestic and gender violence through its Speak Out Against Domestic Violence program.  The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which launched in 1992, has placed Avon and the Avon Foundation for Women at the forefront of the fight against breast cancer; today, Avon is the leading corporate supporter of the cause globally. Avon breast cancer programs in 58 countries have donated more than $780 million for research and advancing access to care, regardless of a person’s ability to pay. Avon awards funding to beneficiaries ranging from leading cancer centers to community-based grassroots breast health programs to support breast cancer research and access to care.  The Avon Foundation raises funds for the Crusade through the sale of Avon “Pink Ribbon” products, and through events such as the U.S. Avon Walk for Breast Cancer series, which is the Avon Foundation’s largest fund-raising event. Visit www.avonfoundation.org for more information.

About the National Cancer Institute

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH effort to dramatically reduce the prevalence of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI website at http://www.cancer.gov or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov

About The Center for Advancing Innovation

The Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) is a global public-private partnership non-profit focused on creating a virtuous circle of innovation and driving growth breakthroughs through novel creative paradigms and models.  CAI’s mission is to accelerate and increase the volume of technology transfer, translational research, commercialization and entrepreneurship in various fields of research, including biomedical research, to make more research available to the world for educational and innovation purposes, improve the economy and positively impact world health.  For more information about CAI, please visit http://www.thecenterforadvancinginnovation.org.