The AIM-HI Accelerator Fund is an independent 501(C)(3) non-profit organization, established with an initial grant from the National Foundation for Cancer Research with the vision to accelerate the translation of cancer drug discoveries by investing in seed-stage companies. It is a new paradigm through venture philanthropy to fund start-up oncology companies that commercialize innovative laboratory breakthroughs which can potentially save cancer patients’ lives. We seek to pool immediately deployable funding to provide support for translational research into partnerships with the biopharmaceutical industry.
Our business model leverages how nonprofits, the pharmaceutical industry, researchers, entrepreneurs, patients, and their families can work together across the entire cancer care continuum — from prevention to diagnosis to treatment and ongoing care. By investing in promising early-stage startups in the diagnostic, biopharmaceutical and medical technology sectors, AIM-HI’s vision is to help them cross the “Valley of Death” and produce more targeted and effective therapeutics for cancer patients worldwide.
VALLEY OF DEATH
Curing cancer will require brilliant science and lots of funding. The greatest obstacle to developing new treatments is what researchers call the “Valley of Death.” The phrase refers to the significant funding and resource gap that exists between basic oncology research and initial clinical trials – that is, the stage at which discoveries at a chemical level are turned into potentially viable treatments. Earlier this decade, this so-called translational research was receiving just USD 7–8 billion a year compared with basic medical research which received USD 22–23 billion while industry clinical development boasted USD 125 billion. Early stage research is critical as the first step to developing new drugs but the Valley of Death is only growing wider as investment in clinical developments for treatments that already exist are both lucrative and less risky.
Rapid advances in precision medicine and immunotherapy are ushering in a new era in the treatment and cure of many cancers. New approaches to philanthropy, often paired with impact investment, such as those pioneered by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, have emerged as a path to meet the goals of science and help startups cross the “Valley of Death”.
NFCR’s seed fund to AIM-HI is in the form of USD 3 million recoverable grant.
Impact investing is changing the world, offering socially conscious investors opportunities to drive social and environmental change without sacrificing financial returns. Unlike charitable giving, impact investing provides individuals and organizations with the opportunity to achieve financial and social returns. Although impact investing is a relatively new strategy, its global market size is estimated to be $228 billion and growing, with 75 percent of investments generated from private investing strategies. Most importantly, impact investing makes good on its promises: A 2018 survey conducted by the Global Impact Investing Network found that the vast majority of impact investments met expectations for both impact and financial returns. There is a real opportunity to apply what has worked so well in sectors such as renewable energy to curing cancer, where the advancement of precision medicines will save millions of lives.