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Introduction

Born out of the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR), the AIM-HI Accelerator Fund is a newly created venture philanthropy fund with the sole focus on funding early stage oncology startups. AIM-HI has the mission to make long-lasting public impact on innovations and breakthroughs in cancer therapeutics. AIM-HI intends to provide critical early stage funding for biotech startups dedicated to developing effective therapies and diagnostics for all cancer types. We now announce our first venture competition for women entrepreneurs to receive equity investment of up to $300,000 for their early stage biotech startup companies with a focus on cancer.

Why Shine a Light on Women Entrepreneurs

It is no secret that the life sciences industry suffers from a lack of gender diversity at all levels and at all stages of developing new therapeutics and technologies. There is well-documented evidence of the bias that female entrepreneurs face in launching a new company, starting with raising seed-stage money. Research by the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) found that in the last two years only 2.2 percent of total venture capital dollars and less than 15 percent of angel funds went to companies started or led by women. Another eye-opening statistic: From 2011 to 2013, only 3 percent of all venture capital dollars in the U.S. went to companies with a woman CEO, and only 15 percent of the companies receiving venture capital investment had a woman on the executive team. Similar data are available through PitchBook Data, Inc.

The problem is not the “pipeline.” In other words, there are plenty of women who enter science and go into research in life sciences. For example, according to the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), 25%–30% of the biology faculty at Boston’s leading research universities are women, and 50% of the PhD students in biology are female. Besides motherhood and unconscious bias, some in the VC community believe that a lack of female presence in that community is a key contributing factor in women entrepreneurs being overlooked for funding. The implication is that up to 50% of emerging research is not effectively in the pipeline for transitioning to commercial application due to lack of accessible funding to support the commercialization process.

On the flip side of this coin is the opportunity. More and more VCs are starting to recognize and fund women-led startups because of the attractive return on investment (ROI) they have demonstrated, especially in technology arena. According to Forbes, there are 10 key stats that build the case for investing in women-led startups. On top of this list is the Kaufman

Foundation’s finding that private technology companies led by women are more capital efficient, achieving 35% higher ROI, and when venture-backed, 12% higher revenue than startups run by men. Another relevant data point comes from a study of more than 350 startups conducted by Mass Challenge and the Boston Consulting Group. They determined that businesses founded by women deliver higher revenue—more than 2 times as much per dollar invested—than those founded by men, making women-owned companies’ better investments for financial backers.

Curated Pipeline of Women Scientists

AIM-HI, through its parent organization, NFCR, has decades of close working relationships with top medical research institutions in the world. In addition to these research institutions, AIM-HI, through its partnerships, will also source women bioentrepreneurs from the top cancer centers in the United States. 

Rich History of Supporting Women Scientists

NFCR and AIM-HI are committed not only in supporting oncology scientists and cancer startups in general but those that have female entrepreneurs in particular. In the last 20 years, NFCR has funded a dozen top woman scientists from various institutions, accounting for roughly 25% of all scientists funded. Most recently, NFCR launched the Salisbury Award to promote cancer research. Of the 16 projects that are deemed as finalists, 5 of them were led by women scientists, which represents 31% of the pool. NFCR’s sister organization in Asia, the Asian Fund for Cancer Research (AFCR), had an even higher representation of women scientists in their inaugural BRACE Award Competition in 2019. Namely, of the 20 projects reviewed at the final stage of the competition, 11 of them were led by women scientists. That represents 55% of the pool. AIM-HI, since its inception in 2019, has funded 10 innovative startups and one of them is led by a woman scientist. The intent of launching the Women’s Venture Competition program is to encourage and greatly increase women scientists’ participation in entrepreneurial ventures.

AIM-HI Women’s Venture Competition

The AIM-HI Women’s Venture Competition provides an opportunity for aspiring female entrepreneur-scientists in the cancer/oncology arena to seek early-stage funding from the AIM-HI Accelerator Fund. In addition to our own network of women scientists, AIM-HI wishes to expand the cadre of women entrepreneurs through open competition. Women-led companies, started to address unmet medical needs in cancer/oncology, will compete and the most promising companies will be identified by a team of experts. We invite all aspiring women scientist/entrepreneurs to apply.

The value of this competition, outside the potential for seed stage equity investment, is:

  • Mentoring – we have a long-term focus on the entrepreneur-scientist, which is a human capital centered approach with a long track record. We look for coachability and entrepreneurial mindset in the women entrepreneur-scientists and match them with industry mentors (a value of $10K).
  • Advising – we focus on time-efficient, strategic connections and helping the women entrepreneur build out her team or provide virtual CXO services (a value of up to $100K)
  • Networking – we have a vast, selective global network of innovators, investors and influencers in the oncology subsector of life sciences industry. We will make introductions for investment and market expansion purposes (a value of up to $25K)

Accelerator Programing

AIM-HI has partnered with Springboard Enterprises (www.sb.co) to bring a venture accelerator program component to women bioentrepreneurs that focus on selecting those women scientists with an entrepreneurial mindset and match them with our trusted network of venture advisors, mentors, coaches and investors. Springboard is one of the world’s first and the best-known accelerators solely focused on women entrepreneurs. Since 2000, nearly 800 Springboard portfolio companies seeking investment of financial and human capital for product development and expansion have raised $10.3 Billion, created tens of thousands of new jobs and generated billions in annual revenues. With 197 exits to strategic acquirers and 20 IPOs, Springboard entrepreneurs are transforming industries, including life sciences. 

Value Proposition

The AIM-HI Women’s Venture Competition takes the approach that entrepreneurial training & mentoring of women scientists will accelerate oncology startups led and managed by women in science, creating a high impact not only on cancer therapeutics development, but also on women scientists’ participation in entrepreneurship opportunities. Unlike business incubators and accelerators that provide physical space to work or wet labs, AIM-HI is an accelerator that focuses on the human capital by surrounding our members with mentors, advisors, coaches, and investors, therefore building an ecosystem for the women entrepreneurs to thrive and build successful ventures.

AIM-HI will provide the critically needed funding to early stage oncology companies so that they could quickly generate the data that are essential for filling appropriate documents with the drug regulatory and approval agencies and enabling them to access additional new capital for their growth.

AIM-HI will also provide entrepreneurial support to help increase visibility of the projects and provide connection to Key experts in cancer research and drug development from our extensive network of cancer research and development global network.

Global Reach through Partnerships and Sponsorships

Through such relationships as with Springboard Enterprises, NFCR, AFCR and PHIRDA, which organizes the annual CBIIC Conference, we have global market access. Furthermore, we have also partnered with premier law firms, banks, impact investment funds, foundations and not-for-profit organizations that focus on women entrepreneurship with an emphasis on life sciences, to accelerate the success of women bioentrepreneurs leading companies in oncology. Each of these business partners provides significant support to help underwrite this program.

For more information, please contact Rose Wang rwang@aim-hiaccelerator.org and Dr. Sujuan Ba sjb@nfcr.org

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