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October 30, 2015

Nanotechnology Startup Challenge for Cancer Will Bring Nanotechnology Inventions to Market

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On October 29, 2015, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) published a blog item concerning the Nanotechnology Startup Challenge for Cancer (NSC2), “an open-innovation competition designed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the non-profit Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) to bring promising cancer nanotechnology inventions to market.”  According to OSTP, the competition “creatively combines some of the most powerful tools in the innovation toolbox to bring teams together and launch them on a path to success, while integrating multiple scientific and economic priorities of the Administration”:

  • Through the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the federal government has invested over $22 billion over the past 15 years in research and development to understand and control matter at the nanoscale and develop applications that benefit society;
  • The Precision Medicine Initiative is developing innovative approaches to disease prevention and treatment that take into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles to predict better which treatments will be most effective;
  • The Administration is committed to accelerating the transfer of federally funded research from the laboratory to the commercial marketplace as an important contributor to economic growth. According to OSTP, the NSC2 challenge “helps to overcome two critical Lab-to-Market barriers:  matching entrepreneurs to inventions, and making sure the entrepreneurs have the skills and resources to succeed”;
  • The NSC2 Challenge includes incentive prizes intended to reach beyond the “usual suspects” to increase the number of citizen solvers and entrepreneurs tackling a problem. The Challenge will offer each winning start-up team a license to one of NCI’s nanotechnology inventions, as well as support and training to help winning teams raise seed funding.  Recognizing that creating a successful start-up requires individuals with a range of knowledge and talent and that the proper combination of skills may not reside within a single network of colleagues or collaborators, the NSC2 Challenge provides a tool that aspiring contestants can use to identify additional team members or find an established team to join;
  • To maintain America’s lead as the “best place in the world to start and scale a great enterprise,” the Administration is working to ensure that all Americans have a “fair shot” at entrepreneurial success. The NSC2 Challenge encourages entrepreneurship through a start-up challenge, while acknowledging that budding entrepreneurs may not yet have the skills needed to launch a successful business.  The Challenge therefore offers each team accelerator training similar to the training provided through the Federal I-Corps Program, covering topics ranging from business-plan development to finding investors; and
  • Collaborative approaches between government and nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector are an essential element of the Administration’s innovation agenda. For the NSC2 challenge, the NCI is again working with the CAI, building upon successful collaborations between the two institutions on the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge and Neuro Startup Challenge.