Accelerators seeking startups focused on cancer

Steven Loeb · June 25, 2019 · Short URL:

They include Illumina Accelerator, Merck Accelerator and The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

Editor's note: Vator, HP and UCSF's salon - "Future of Clinics" is on June 27. Need relationships to grow your digital health startup? Register and network with fast-growing startups and established healthcare companies, such as HP, Dignity Health, Sutter Health, One Medical, Crossover Health and more. 

For startups, there are numerous paths for getting their name out there. One way, which Vator has been covering recently, are startup competitions, but another popular method to get a foot in the door, as well as some funding and traction, are accelerators. These are programs that provide companies advice, guidance and various forms of support for startups in their early stages. They also often invest in the companies, for a certain equity stake.

Need a list of startup competitions, challenges, accelerators, etc. from around the world? Check out VatorX. You can find them, or list yours!

There are some very well-known accelerators out there, including Y Combinator and 500 Startups, which have made their names through various successful alumni. Those programs fairly general, accepting companies from a variety of different spaces. 

For some companies, it may help to join an accelerator that only focuses on their specific area. That's especially true for those in more specialized spaces, which will have their own unique challenges and regulations.

Here are some of the accelerators for startups focused on cancer:



"At Illumina, we’re committed to unlocking the power of the genome, and we know we can’t do it alone. Illumina Accelerator is our way of accelerating innovation in the entrepreneurial community. With extensive mentorship, financial support, and access to sequencing systems, reagents, and lab space, we are building a dynamic ecosystem to help genomics startups launch in the San Francisco Bay Area. Together, we'll advance breakthrough applications in genomics, including therapeutics, diagnostics, agriculture, synthetic biology, forensics, and direct-to-consumer applications."

Investment amount: 

  • Up to $100,000 in convertible notes (provided by seed investors)
  • An unsecured line of credit of $20,000

Program benefits: 

  • A set number of credits towards Illumina sequencing reagents and sequencing instrument access
  • Up to 20% of a Staff Scientist’s time to help design experiments

Portfolio companies: Haystack Sciences, Naked Biome, NextGen Jane


"We are not classic accelerators. We are collaboration-makers. At the futuristic Innovation Center at our headquarters in Darmstadt, we will support you from the very beginning. Get the right connections at Merck KGaA Darmstadt, Germany, and end up with a visionary partnership. Together we will explore the unexplored and welcome your startup as part of our community of curious minds."

Investment amount: Seed funding of up to €50,000

Program benefits: 

  • Receive mentoring from members of Senior Management and our global network of over 50,000 experts.
  • Benefit from tailored coaching sessions and workshops provided by our Innovator Academy.
  • Use our rapid prototyping facilities with machines and tools to design and print in 3D, lasercut and much more.
  • Inspirational events will connect your startup across a range of industries.

Portfolio companies: Dicronis 



"The Frederick National Laboratory, together with National Cancer Institute (NCI), will provide entrepreneurs looking to form a biotech startup with assistance in licensing and partnering around promising technologies developed by their researchers. Technologies will be available to startup companies through programs such as NCI’s Start-Up 2.0 that offer advantageous licensing terms."

Investment amount: Not specified

Program benefits: 

  • 12-week Program
  • Entrepreneur Mentors
  • Experienced Lecturers
  • Investment Teams
  • Diverse Focus Groups
  • Great Legal Benefits Package
  • FITCI Space and Amenities

Mentor makeup: Vladimir Popov, Concetta Dudley, Jim Pannucci, Nina Lamba

Portfolio companies: None yet


 American Cancer Society

"The initiative is part of an ACS effort to invest in later stage development projects among ACS grantees to speed the development of diagnostics, drugs, and therapies to help cancer patients. By promoting a culture of innovation and commercialization, ACS seeks to increase the impact of each donor dollar and reduce time-to-cures. ACS seeks to allow select ACS grantees to work closely with medical product development experts to translate their research ideas into high-quality products for commercial launch and patient treatment in a time and cost-efficient manner."

Investment amount: Up to $100,000

Program benefits: Project duration will be assessed during the kick-off phase, which includes the identification of resource needs (e.g., external experts, time and materials) and the creation of a timeline for the innovators to reach key developmental milestones.

Portfolio companies: BOTLab


"The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is transforming healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market."

Investment amount: $100,000 in funding

Program benefits: This three-month program, based in Los Angeles, California, provides companies with mentorship from more than 300 leading clinicians and executives, access to Cedars-Sinai, and exposure to a broad network of healthcare experts, including health system executives from a wide range of organizations, experienced healthcare entrepreneurs, other industry advisers, and healthcare investors. Since 2015, the accelerator has helped dozens of companies transform healthcare delivery and patient care.

Portfolio companies: CancerAid

(Image source:

Read more from our "Startup Competition Guide" series

More episodes

Related News