Corporate Press Releases

Breast Cancer Start-Up Challenge Wins HHS Innovates Awards

Recognized for Promising Technologies Identified to Speed Cancer Research

Jul 25, 2014

NEW YORK - On July 21, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS) recognized the Avon Foundation-funded Breast Cancer Start-up Challenge as an award winner of HHS Innovates, a contest developed to celebrate and identify innovation by HHS employees. After seven rounds of judging by HHS leaders and the public, this initiative earned the HHS Innovates "Secretary's Pick" award for its efforts to mobilize new ways to commercialize breast cancer related inventions.

The Avon Foundation for Women, in partnership with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI), launched the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge in 2013 a first-of-a-kind, international university-based startup competition. The Avon Foundation provided $250,000 in funding for this Challenge. 

The primary goals of the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge were to accelerate and increase the volume of emerging breast cancer invention development and commercialization as well as stimulate the creation of start-up businesses around the inventions.  As a result of this challenge, 11 new startups were launched, are raising funding and are in negotiations to license the technology. This challenge is unique and presents a real world opportunity in that, in the final stage, teams are required to launch a startup, raise seed funding and also apply for a license to the invention, which is beyond what traditional business plan competitions require.

The challenge is the largest of its kind in the world, as compared to the current largest competition based out of Rice University in Houston. “The CAI team is thrilled to have had the opportunity to partner with NCI and the Avon Foundation on this initiative that has served as a catalyst to accelerate and boost the volume of promising breast cancer related invention-development and -commercialization,” said Rosemarie Truman, Founder and CEO of CAI.  “We look forward to seeing the impact the new startups make on the standard of care in breast cancer and other areas as we leverage this novel paradigm as a platform to launch similar challenges.”

The Breast Cancer Startup Challenge is comprised of 10 research technologies that were judged to show great promise to advance breast cancer research. These 10 inventions were developed at NCI or at an Avon Foundation-funded university lab and include therapeutics, diagnostics, prognostics, one device, one vaccine, one delivery system and one health IT invention. Teams of business, legal, medical/scientific, engineering, computer science students and seasoned entrepreneurs have evaluated these technologies to create business plans and start new companies to develop and commercialize them. 

Two hundred teams expressed an interest in joining the challenge and 46 teams were accepted to compete on a range of business plan possibilities. In total, 478 people participated in the competition. Given the number of teams and people on each team, this challenge is one of the largest global university business plan challenges to date.  The 11 startups include:

  • Challenge #1 - Diagnostic from Biopsies with Software Analysis
    Winner – Radial Genomics, University of Cambridge; Lead Inventor - Tom Misteli, Ph.D., NCI
  • Challenge #2 - Immunotherapy Using Modified Self Tumor Cells
    Winner- PCV Therapeutics, Washington University in Saint Louis; Lead Inventor - Dennis Klinman, M.D., Ph.D., NCI
  • Challenge #3 - Combination of Tissue Reconstruction and Recurrence Prevention
    Winner – Medicogen, Tulane University; Lead Inventor - Karen Burg, Ph.D., Clemson University
    Finalist – NEST, Clemson University
  • Challenge #4 - Human Monoclonal Antibody Based Cancer Therapies
    Winner – Mesopharm Therapeutics, Stanford University; Lead Inventor - Mitchell Ho, Ph.D., NCI
  • Challenge #5 -Immunotherapy Using Granulysin Activated Monocytes
    Winner – Orpheden Therapeutics, Northwestern University; Lead Inventor - Alan Krensky, M.D., Northwestern University (formerly with NCI)
  • Challenge #6 - Anti-cancer Toxin
    Winner – Oncolinx, Rutgers University; Lead Inventor - Nadya Tarasova, Ph.D., NCI
  • Challenge #7 - Versatile Delivery Method for Cancer Therapeutics
    Finalist – Bespoke Therapeutics, Wake Forest University; Lead Inventors - Stanislaw J. Kaczmarczyk, Ph.D. & Deb Chatterjee, Ph.D., NCI
  • Challenge #8 –Genomic-based Diagnostic Assay
    Winner – Heragen, University of California, Berkeley; Lead Inventor: Steven Libutti, M.D., FACS, Albert Einstein College of Medicine (formerly NCI)
  • Challenge #9 -Tissue-based Diagnostic Assay
    Winner – ProVivoX, McGill University; Lead Inventor - Stephen M. Hewitt, M.D., Ph.D., NCI
  • Challenge #10 - Diagnostic Kit for Therapy Benefit Prediction
    Winner – Taxor Diagnostics, Tulane University; Lead Inventor - Sherry Yang, MD., Ph.D., NCI

For more information on the Challenge, visit:  


The Avon Foundation for Women, the world’s largest corporate-affiliated philanthropy focused on issues that matter most to women, was founded in 1955 to improve the lives of women. Through 2013, Avon global philanthropy, led by the Avon Foundation, has donated more than $957 million in more than 50 countries for causes most important to women. Today, Avon philanthropy focuses on funding breast cancer research and access to care through the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, and efforts to reduce domestic and gender violence through its Speak Out Against Domestic Violence program. Visit for more information.

The Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) is a global public-private partnership non-profit focused on creating a virtuous circle of innovation and driving growth breakthroughs through novel, creative paradigms and models.  CAI’s mission is to accelerate and increase the volume of technology transfer, translational research, commercialization and entrepreneurship in various fields of research, including biomedical research, to make more research available to the world for educational and innovation purposes, improve the economy and positively impact world health.  For more information about CAI, please visit

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