Success of Breast Cancer Startup Challenge Spurs New Challenge at NIH

By Dr. Thomas Stackhouse, Associate Director NCI Technology Transfer Center, and Rosemarie Truman, Founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Innovation In July, the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge (BCSC) was selected by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell as one of three “Secretary’s Picks” in the  HHS Innovates competition, an HHS-sponsored award program that identifies and recognizes HHS employees for their innovative work. Following this exciting recognition, the BCSC was awarded with an Excellence in Technology Transfer Award in the fall of 2014 from the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Federal Laboratory Consortium, a nationwide network of federal laboratories that provides the forum to develop strategies and opportunities for linking laboratory mission technologies and expertise with the marketplace. We believe that the success of this new competition, conceived and launched by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) and the Avon Foundation for Women, hinged on a number of factors. First of all, it is a new model to help accelerate and simultaneously transfer multiple federal inventions to the marketplace where they can have an opportunity to have a positive impact on public health. Second, it brings together the best minds and ideas from the federal, private, academic and entrepreneurial arenas to accomplish this goal. Third, the outcome has the potential to stimulate economic growth and create jobs through the formation of startups. Fourth, it is a new model for venture philanthropy. Finally, it serves as an excellent platform to help post-docs and graduate students learn “the business of science.” Given our very promising initial results, the BCSC is now being applied as a model template for advancing other NIH licensable technologies and helping to create startup companies. The NeuroStartup Challenge, which is centered on 16 unlicensed brain-related inventions from multiple NIH Institutes, was recently launched using the BCSC framework. This new challenge is seeking teams of graduate-level medical post-docs, business students, and seasoned entrepreneurs to create strategic business plans and launch startups to develop and commercialize the inventions. We are excited by the opportunity to help accelerate and increase the volume of advancements for brain-related health concerns by building on the unique framework created with the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge. We are grateful for the support and recognition from the HHS IDEA Lab for our efforts thus far, which has helped us to bolster our efforts in scaling the BCSC model. From here, we hope that our new challenge can serve as a model to institutionalize the practice of spinning off inventions across HHS and other Federal labs. For more information on the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge or The NeuroStartup Challenge, please visit Breast Cancer Startup Challenge or The NeuroStartup Challenge.