Accelerator Award

Updated: January 4, 2023
The Accelerator Award LOI Application Submission portal is currently OPEN*.
*Note: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
▸ Accelerator Award LOI Submission Form

Updated: April 7, 2022

The CBC Accelerator Award program supports translational research that moves therapeutic discoveries from the university laboratory to the market and provides university researchers with “early commercial guidance”. Accelerator Awards are intended to support the initial, and therefore, highest risk, stage of commercially-directed research focused on the development of a therapeutic or an associated biomarker or diagnostic. The program encourages interactions between academic researchers and industry/ pharmaceutical/venture capital experts early in the development of projects and provides advice to award recipients with setting and progressing toward commercialization milestones. Award recipients will be mentored by faculty, industry experts, potential investors, technology transfer officers and CBC personnel.

Accelerator Award Program Overview

Process Goals I Process Overview I Individual Steps Components I Details & Eligibility I LOI Preparation
LOI Submission I Contact Us

The goal of the Accelerator Award review process is to make sure the CBC works with potential Principal Investigator (PI) recipients to vet and develop their ideas. This means that instead of a traditional granting process, the CBC will open submissions on a rolling basis. After a triage step, the CBC will shepherd the ideas that have the most near-term potential into “investable theses” for review. This will alleviate some of the burden that is placed on the submitting investigator to develop their pitch and ensure that when an idea is funded, that it is based on as much ‘knowable’ information as possible.

A key element of success within this process is the role of the Entrepreneurial Fellows (EFs). The EFs will work with potential recipients to do the due diligence and legwork that ensures that any funded award gets selected based on the most current thinking and best available scientific, clinical, and commercial data. Finally, the viability of proposals will be assessed by our Accelerator Venture Board (AVB). These are civic minded venture capital professionals who are generously donating their time once a quarter to assess finalized investment theses and recommend funding. For a list of the currently scheduled meeting dates, please click here.

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PROCESS OVERVIEW: There will be 7 major steps

Step Action and Timing Timing Involved

PI submits an LOI Rolling submission Potential grant recipient PI
2 Triaged to EF pool or asked for more information Notification within 1 month of submission CBC
3 EF develops Investment Memo Completed within 5 weeks after triage notification for the proposal to advance – a “now” designation* EF in consultation with PI
4 EF & PI presents to Scientific Committee review Convened within 6 weeks after triage notification of “now” EF & PI present to faculty experts
5 Due Diligence: EF follows up on open questions Completed within 4 weeks of Scientific Committee presentation External experts and Tech Transfer Offices
6 EF & PI present to Accelerator Venture Board (AVB) Presented no later than 10 weeks after triage notification or next scheduled AVB CBC WB
7 SDs/ED determine funding Determined no later than 1 week after AVB convening CBC

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  1. Letters of Intent (LOIs) associated with a translational research project will be accepted on a rolling basis. The CBC will consult with the submitting PI to ensure they understand the basic idea, the supporting data and publications, and the PI’s vision of what the biomedical application could be.
  2. Triage: Ideas will be given three designations:
    1. *“now” which means the idea will be assigned to an EF team.
    2. “soon” which means the idea passes triage and will be assigned to an EF team, but the CBC team needs time to free up resources to explore. Timing will be discussed with the applicant to ensure clear communication and transparency.
    3. “declined at this time” which means that there are limitations in the initial LOI. In some cases, this may be because the idea is at an early stage and/or there are elements that need to be further elaborated by the submitting PI before it can be resubmitted for triage review.

    After the triage, the CBC can make time to discuss how to convert a “declined at this time” into a “soon” or “now” if this is possible.

  3. Investment Memo: Once the PI’s submission is designated as “now”, the assigned EF team will meet with the PI to further fact find on the basic idea as well as understand the supporting data that bolster’s the potential biomedical application. The EF team will determine (1) the size and timing of the ask (2) the clinical problem that is being solved (3) the competitive positioning of the proposed application (4) the potential for follow on funding (5) the key experiments that should be proposed.
  4. Scientific Review: The EF and the PI will present to a convening of scientific experts whose job is to evaluate the science and the techniques. These experts may also be knowledgeable about the clinical and commercial components of the Investment Thesis and are encouraged to ask as many hard questions as necessary. The goal is to uncover as many objections and unanswered questions as possible.
  5. Due Diligence: After the scientific review, the EF will consult with the PI to get thoughts and will then plan to address the key unanswered questions through expert interviews and ‘desk research’.
  6. Accelerator Venture Board (AVB) Presentation: After the due diligence phase, the EF will prepare to present final recommendations to the convened AVB. This presentation will be led by the EF with support from the PI. The assembled review board will be asked to give their opinion of how fundable the potential project is after the CBC investment as well as the time to seed funding.
  7. SD/ED funding determination: The funding decision will be made based on the results of the AVB.
  8. Each quarter, the Accelerator Venture Board will meet to review specific proposals and recommend funding the projects that have a higher likelihood of commercial success. With your help, we hope to move forward the early-stage research with the highest potential to translate to the market.

    1. Accelerator Awards will be for $100,000 for the first year of funding
    2. Awarded projects that have met proposed milestones during the first year may be invited to apply for an additional $150,000 for one more year of research

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  • Applicants must be tenured or tenure-track faculty with research programs at Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, and/or the University of Illinois Chicago. Faculty with full-time appointments on the clinical track at each of the institutions are also eligible to apply. Applicants must have their own designated laboratory space. Individuals who carry faculty appointments with parenthetical rank, are not eligible for tenure, and do not have their own laboratory space are not eligible to apply.
  • Although collaborative proposals are encouraged there is no specific requirement for cross-institutional collaboration.
  • Applicants may have created a company to pursue translation of their innovation, but there is no expectation or requirement for so doing. The CBC encourages applications prior to or without company formation.
  • Multiple applications can be submitted from each institution.
  • There is no expectation that Accelerator Awards will be distributed evenly among the CBC institutions.
  • Letters of Intent (LOI) should show both innovation and scientific merit.
  • The project should be focused on the development of a therapeutic or associated diagnostic or biomarker, built around a compelling hypothesis and focus on gathering data that advances the hypothesis and discharges key translational risks.
  • Research teams should not already be funded for the same (or closely related) specific aims and/or milestones.
  • Research projects described in Accelerator applications cannot be under review at other funding institutions/agencies to support the same (or closely related) specific aims and/or milestones.
  • A PI is limited to one active proposal at a time
  • Ongoing and active participation in the CBCAN program is a requirement for Accelerator Award recipients.

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All LOIs MUST be prepared according to the guidelines listed below. All pages and documents listed below should be assembled into a SINGLE PDF document in the order listed. Portfolios will NOT BE ACCEPTED.

Name the PDF file with “AA_LOI_” followed by the last name of the PI designated as contact person (e.g., AA_LOI_smith.pdf).

LOIs not conforming to these guidelines will BE RETURNED FOR REVISIONS.

Page 1: Title Page

  • Download the LOI Title Page Form, fill out and append as page 1 of your proposal. (If the Word document does not come up automatically for your browser, please find the file in your computer’s Downloads folder.)
  • Complete all checkboxes by selecting either YES or NO and provide information when needed.

Pages 2 – 4: The body of the LOI is limited to 4 pages; append as pages 2 – 4 of your application. Include the following sections with the indicated titles and in the indicated order. Use at least size 11 font, 0.5 inch margins and standard letter paper size (8.5” x 11”).

  • One-paragraph lay-language summary of project (max. 150 words; append as page 2 of your LOI)
  • A separate, two-page discussion (append as page 3 and 4 of your LOI) of the translational potential of the project, describing:
    • The basic research findings that are the basis of the hypothesis and project, including:
      • Its significance with respect to the basic science
      • The compelling data that suggests clinical/translational potential
    • The diagnostic, biomarker or therapeutic you have in mind and its significance
    • Proposed patient population that will benefit from your discovery
    • Potential clinical or therapeutic need
    • Positioning: how the proposed therapeutic differs from existing ones and/or benefits patients in a new way
    • The experiments you intend to do over the first year and how they will address key translational risks
    • The translational goal(s) for your Accelerator project and proposed milestones (ensure that these are adequately quantitative for demonstrating progress)
    • Describe interactions with your Technology Transfer Office and the status of your intellectual property for this project. Has a company been formed?
    • Has this project received any funding for translational work? If yes, please elaborate and indicate the relationship of this proposal to otherwise funded work.

Page 5: Relevant Cited Scientific References (not to exceed one page; please follow the NIH format)

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LOI Submission

Completed LOIs MUST be submitted online. Clearly designate the contact person on the LOI. The contact person will be responsible for submitting the LOI.

Following evaluation of LOI, selected applicants will be assigned further development with an Entrepreneurial Fellow as per the Accelerator Award Process.

To submit your LOI click on the link below:

▸ Submit your Accelerator Award LOI here

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Updated: January 18, 2023

If you have questions, please contact:

Michelle Hoffmann CBC Executive Director
Nancy Tyrrell CBC Director of Translational Science Programs and Initiatives
Corinna Kitcharoen
(Questions for Application Webform ONLY)
CBC Associate Director of Events and Communications

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▸ Funded Accelerator Awards