LabCentral Ignite Awards Four Golden Tickets To Support Entrepreneurial Diversity In Biotech

Entrepreneurs / 12th October 2022

LabCentral Ignite, with support from key sponsors Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb and Mission BioCapital, has announced the winners of its second annual Golden Ticket contest: CellensGuardian BioQurCan Therapeutics and Spheric Bio. The winners were unveiled at LabCentral Ignite’s bioDiversity Summit & Awards, a new annual event that brings the entire biotech ecosystem together to discuss actionable areas of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the field.

The LabCentral Ignite Golden Tickets are designed to help underrepresented biotech entrepreneurs who are researching and developing high-impact solutions to human health challenges turn their ideas into reality. Four Ignite Golden Tickets were awarded in total – two to women founders and two to founders of color – and each will receive one year of advisory support and a seat at LabCentral’s shared lab space in Cambridge.

“Like many other fields, the life sciences sector has historically fallen woefully short when it comes to engaging underserved individuals and communities in the academic, hands-on training and career opportunities that are generally wide open to majority populations,” said Jo Viney, CEO, president and cofounder of Seismic Therapeutics, and LabCentral Ignite Golden Ticket selection committee member. “LabCentral’s Ignite Golden Ticket program tackles this issue head on, going further than simply recognizing these high-potential biotech entrepreneurs by putting a full toolbox for success at their fingertips, from lab space and resources to pivotal connections with peers, industry partners, VCs and more.”

The second annual Ignite Golden Ticket winners are as follows:

Women Founders:

  • Ananya Zutshi, cofounder and CEO, Guardian Bio, a startup focused on using patients’ own stem cells to fight diseases, starting with cancer
  • Ellen Roche, founder, Spheric Bio, which is developing an intracardiac device for stroke prevention in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation who are at risk of stroke and ineligible for blood thinners

Founders of Color:

  • Jean Pham, cofounder and CEO, Cellens, a company that is pioneering an accurate and noninvasive bladder cancer detection test suite to support physicians’ decisions and improve patients’ quality of life
  • Mohammed Ali Amini, co-founder, president and CEO, QurCan Therapeutics, which is developing nanomedicine that uses its TERP technology to address major unmet needs, such as overcoming resistance to therapy, for the treatment of cancer and other diseases

Ignite Golden Ticket submissions are reviewed by a selection committee made up of leaders from across the life sciences field. Assessments are based on the quality and potential impact of the science, along with other standard selection criteria. The committee then identifies a limited number of finalists that receive advanced coaching and mentorship to help prepare them to present their pitch, after which the winning companies are chosen.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to see our Ignite Golden Ticket program continue to grow, thanks in large part to our industry sponsors,” said Gretchen Cook-Anderson, executive director of LabCentral Ignite. “Our second annual contest doubled the number of underrepresented entrepreneurs who will now gain access to our labs and our entire LabCentral network of peers, mentors, partners and investors, opening up a world of possibilities as they develop new human health therapies, drugs and technologies that can ultimately enhance and save lives.”

As the only platform exclusively focused on addressing systemic racial, gender and other underrepresentation in biotech, Ignite has fueled significant results since launching in 2020. For example, funding scholarships, curriculum development and training have impacted more than 1000 students and 33 interns. Ignite has also awarded six Ignite Golden Tickets to early-stage companies with diverse founders and provided substantial support to STEM education and biotech job training.

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