New Dartmouth seed program targets med-tech ventures

Dartmouth College, Johnson & Johnson, and Hanover-based Borealis Ventures yesterday launched what they call a “proof-of-concept” fund at Dartmouth.

Known as the Seed Grant Program, it will support development of research innovations that could become high-impact medical technologies with promising commercial potential.

The Seed Grant Program was co-developed by Dartmouth, Johnson & Johnson’s Corporate Office of Science and Technology (COSAT), and Borealis Ventures, a venture capital firm.

The program is designed to validate peer-reviewed Dartmouth research through the “proof of concept” stage, and launch the projects on a successful path to clinical and commercial adoption.

According to Stephen Spielberg, dean of Dartmouth Medical School, the program “will serve as a catalyst for collaboration and innovation all across the Dartmouth campus. It will be an active partnership with Johnson & Johnson and Borealis. This program is a crucial asset in the continuing struggle to move promising new findings from the lab bench to the bedside and into best clinical practices.”

He said validation projects in the program will have defined characteristics. They will:

• Have high scientific merit, developed by investigators with established credentials and expertise.
• Have identifiable potential benefits of high impact for patients and consumers.
• Derive from Dartmouth research at a stage where projects can provide preliminary proofs-of-concept and the critical early stages of preclinical development needed to generate interest from industry and investment entities.
• Involve emerging technology or innovations of high potential impact for J&J and with the potential to align with J&J business strategy.

“We have a successful history of applied research with Dartmouth, and now look forward to the establishment of this fund focused at an earlier stage,” said Dr. Robert Zivin, corporate director in the Corporate Office of Science & Technology at J&J. “We anticipate that these grants will help scientists at Dartmouth translate their exciting research into the healthcare solutions of the future.”

Johnson & Johnson’s commitment is being matched through a fund at Dartmouth that was provided by Borealis, a venture capital partnership that has invested in several successful Dartmouth spinouts. The Dartmouth fund will be managed by a committee of Dartmouth faculty, and includes representatives from Johnson & Johnson and Borealis.

The Seed Grant Program will be co-managed by a committee of representatives from J&J, Dartmouth and Borealis, and will issue between four and eight individual grants of $50,000 to $100,000. All medical and life sciences faculty of Dartmouth Medical School, the Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center will be eligible to apply for support.

All intellectual property rights will remain with Dartmouth and the investigators. Any project funding requests will be expected to include appropriate plans for subsequent development and external funding.

“We are pleased to support this important initiative at Dartmouth,” said founding Borealis partner and Tuck School of Business professor Philip J. Ferneau. “This collaboration addresses a critical funding challenge in advancing innovative technologies from basic science into benefits for society through the path of commercialization.”

More information about the guidelines for eligibility, proposals and submissions will be will be available in October at the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Web site, — JEFF FEINGOLD

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