10 biotech accelerators shaping tomorrow’s innovations

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biotech accelerators

A biotech accelerator is a program that accelerates a startup’s growth. Apart from helping raise funding, they tend to offer hands-on mentorship, infrastructural support, as well as access to networking events that can aid in launching young biotechs in a span of months.

The accelerator program typically entails a series of mentoring sessions and community events for entrepreneurs to pitch their biotechs to potential investors. This way, they can obtain investments, exclusive credits and discounts, and access to investors, mentors and the accelerator’s alumni.

Here are 10 biotech accelerators that are dedicated to fueling entrepreneurs to pursue their goal of setting up their life science companies successfully.

Table of contents

    Alchemist Accelerator

    Headquartered in San Francisco, Alchemist Accelerator is focused on accelerating the development of early-stage ventures through its six-month program that aims to help out budding entrepreneurs on their journey to becoming biotech founders.

    The program entails a series of ‘Demo Days’ that comprises mentoring sessions and community events for entrepreneurs to pitch their biotechs to potential investors. This way, they can obtain investments, exclusive credits and discounts, and access to investors, mentors and the accelerator’s alumni. So far, it has backed more than 500 companies and helped raise $2.1 billion in funding.

    Some of the companies that have made its portfolio include drug delivery platform company Hera Health Solutions, in-home women’s reproductive health and diagnostics company Diagnio, lab-grown human tissue company Frontier Bio, and cancer care navigation company Navvisa. 

    Presently, it has hubs in Memphis and San Francisco in the U.S., and Munich in Germany, and has a network of more than 5,500 venture investors on its radar.

    Nucleate

    Set up in 2018, Nucleate, a student-led organization founded by a group of PhD candidates, aims to provide the tools to biotech entrepreneurs to start new ventures, especially scientists and business students looking to build a company, without taking equity. 

    Its accelerator program begins with a ‘mutual-matching’ team formation phase as well as workshops and mentor sessions where they are offered one-on-one feedback from life science experts on the dos and don’ts in entrepreneurship. What makes this unique is that it is addressed to people who have not necessarily formed a company yet but are looking to spinout or found a startup. This is because the founders are looking to set up a community of student bioentrepreneurs. 

    The accelerator has helped start 78 biotech companies to date, and has helped create 200 jobs. Its sponsors include multinationals like Lilly, Genentech and MilliporeSigma, among others. 

    With twenty locations across the globe, the company also provides hands-on training with its Genesis, Catalyze and Cultivate programs. These include sessions on biotech entrepreneurship and learning to turn novel ideas into viable biotech ventures. The Nucleate Cultivate program is a free and collaborative initiative that facilitates the formation of life sciences companies and research opportunities focused on life science and engineering applications. The Catalyze program is one that is tailored for students at university who want to take the next step with their big scientific idea, and introduce them to accelerators, incubators and connect them with investors.

    Some of the companies in its current cohort include ReBreathe, which specializes in G-protein coupled receptor stimulation for opioid addiction treatment, antiviral therapy company Kovo Biosciences, and precision gene editing company Hybridex Biosciences, among numerous others.

    Illumina Accelerator

    Run by the DNA giant Illumina, the Illumina Accelerator was founded in 2014 to launch genomic companies to make it big in the synthetic biology, diagnostics, agriculture, and therapeutics fields.

    Having venture capital investors at its fingertips, the accelerator supports new businesses by helping raise seed money, providing access to sequencing technology, offering business coaching sessions, as well as space to set up offices and labs.

    As a pioneer and leader in next generation sequencing, startups can apply to the company’s Illumina for Startups Grants program, which offers access to its proprietary MiSeq, NextSeq & NovaSeq Systems and reagents, as well as experiment planning meetings and access to expert networks, for a span of six months. 

    It has aided in securing more than $1 billion in venture capital funding for startups. Nearly half of these startups have been launched by women in the biotech industry.

    IndieBio

    IndieBio was set up a decade ago to help grow companies in their different stages of development. 

    It has funded more than 215 companies and helped secure funds worth $9 billion. IndieBio’s influence on boosting the biotech market is seen across 40 countries, and the company has a particular interest in following food trends, as well as in climate action.

    Those who board the accelerator program receive $150,000 to $550,000 from the venture capital SOSV, and some may even obtain additional financing, for an 11.2% post-debt position, which on average converts to 7.5% at seed. In its roster, it has renowned cell-cultured meat company Upside Foods, sustainable biotechs Aequor Inc. and Terra Bioindustries, and women’s health platform Afynia, among others. 

    StartX

    With a total valuation crossing $40 billion and having helped raise more than $24 million in funds, StartX is a Stanford-led accelerator program that focuses on supporting biotechs. By helping secure funds and getting involved in the company’s recruitment process, StartX’s wide Stanford University Alumni Network is at the disposal of the companies on the accelerator program.

    As part of its three-month full-time accelerator program, companies can attend networking events, access its resources, receive mentorship, form partnerships, as well have a platform to scout for capital with direct access to a network of vetted investors. As a non-profit accelerator, it does not take equity.

    The company’s network includes a range of organizations from Stanford University and Stanford Health Care to CSL Behring, Amazon Web Services, StartEngine, AstraZeneca, Sequoia Capital and HubSpot, to name a few.

    Xontogeny

    Specialized in the growth of life science companies, Xontogeny helps design a company’s portfolio and build its regulatory plan, from when candidates are in the preclinical stage, all through to the clinic.

    The company has collaborated with a number of investors to help companies gain capital to support their ideas, as well as to assist in drawing out plans to raise and manage series A and B funding. And like most accelerators, it hosts networking events and provides mentorship services to push life science companies forward.

    Founded eight years ago in Boston, Massachusetts, Xontogeny’s partnership with life sciences venture capital firm Perceptive Advisors, has helped various companies bag funds necessary to advance research and development.

    Xontogeny has worked in tandem with portfolio companies like A-Alpha Bio, Cargo Therapeutics, Juno Therapeutics, Landos Biopharma and Surf Bio, among many others.

    BaseLaunch Accelerator

    Having partnered with big names in the biotech industry like Roche, Novo Nordisk, Roivant, Johnson & Johnson, and CSL Behring, Swiss accelerator BaseLaunch, which is situated in the biotech hub of Basel, offers companies access to labs and other infrastructure, in addition to up to $500,000 in financing. 

    Some of the successful ventures that it helped bring to the forefront include T cell receptor therapies company Engimmune Therapeutics, neuropsychiatry-focused Synendos Therapeutics, biologics developer Anaveon, which creates drugs that modulate cytokine functionality for immune dysfunction diseases, and Alentis Therapeutics, which specializes in treatments for people with fibrotic disease. The company also helps companies hunt for office and lab sites in Basel.

    The company guides companies up until they manage to raise a series A round. Having supported 22 ventures so far, nine of them have raised more than $600 million in series A funding. BaseLaunch helps build the team and provides support with intellectual property (IP) licensing.

    Y Combinator

    One of the most prominent startup accelerators, Y Combinator has a combined valuation of $600 billion, and has assisted around 4000 startups come by funding. The California-based company has helped launch numerous companies, including globally renowned ones like Airbnb, Twitch, Reddit, Quora, Coinbase, and DoorDash.

    The first biotech company that it funded was Ginkgo Bioworks, which specializes in therapeutics, vaccines and nutrition, back in 2014. Since then, various biotech startups have hopped on the Y Combinator accelerator bandwagon to pursue their pipelines.

    BioGenerator Ventures

    BioGenerator Ventures has invested $39 million into startups and helped them obtain funds worth $2.6 billion. One of its successful missions was Geneoscopy, a diagnostics company that utilizes seRNA biomarkers to develop multiple assays to be able to non-invasively evaluate gastrointestinal disease.

    It helped the life science company with mentoring, and financial and infrastructural support five years ago, as well as to catalyze the series B round, which involved a key investor joining the round to accelerate development, according to Erica Barnell, co-founder and chief scientific officer (CSO) of Geneoscopy. 

    Based in St. Louis in the U.S., the company has also played a critical role in bringing up other life science companies like Benson Hill, MediBeacon, and SentiAR. The company deploys funds to early-stage companies, and acts as a venture capital along with being an accelerator.

    MassChallenge

    Based in Boston, Massachusetts, with branches across the world, MassChallenge is a non-profit startup accelerator for early-stage entrepreneurs. The MassChallenge HealthTech community is a pool of healthcare professionals, researchers, policymakers, mentors, and investors, who look to improve healthcare by enabling entrepreneurial and scientific talent.

    Its HealthTech Track  program leverages the booming life sciences industry in Switzerland to help startups gain ground. The accelerator’s HealthTech Challenge is ideal for digital health companies as well as biotechs and pharmaceuticals in the maternal health, pediatrics, and reproductive health sectors.

    Apart from these, MassChallenge also has a Maternal-Child Health Equity Challenge program designed to pair two market solutions that can enhance equity, particularly in maternal and infant care. 

    One of the latest on its record of programs is the PandemicX Accelerator, for which it has collaborated with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to tackle inequality that has been worsened by COVID-19, since 2022.

    Some notable early-stage alumni include HUED, LambdaVision, SQZ Biotech, and Enzymit.

    How different are biotech accelerators to incubators?

    While both biotech accelerators and incubators encourage the growth of young companies, unlike accelerators, incubators focus on early-stage startups that are currently in their product-development phase, and do not have a concrete business model yet. But some incubators have also begun offering accelerator programs.

    What makes a good accelerator is how invested it is in a certain company, according to a report by John Carrigan, CSO of SOSV in Labiotech. These biotech accelerators are also staffed by professionals in the healthcare and biotech sector, and they must ensure that the target program is well-networked, and mentored and led by pioneers and established entrepreneurs.

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