Born out of the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR), 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.
Top NFCR-Funded Medical Research Institutions
- Cornell University
- Harvard University
- Yale University
- University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center
- The Scripps Research Institute
- Translational Genomic Research Institute (TGEN)
- University of Kansas
- Stanford University
- University of Oxford
- Georgetown University
- University of Arizona Cancer Center (UACC)
- Tianjin Medical University
- Global Coalition for Adaptive Research (GCAR)
- Case Western Reserve University
- University of Colorado Denver
- Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
- University of Maryland, Baltimore
- Vanderbilt University
- Albert Einstein College of Medicine
- University of Düsseldorf
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, Asian Fund for Cancer Research (AFCR) had an even higher representation of women scientists in their inaugural BRACE Award 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.