The mission of UC Berkeley’s Life Sciences Entrepreneurship Center (LSEC), created in June of 2021 is to foster life sciences entrepreneurship by leveraging, coordinating, and building upon existing campus resources.
Berkeley has numerous campus resources supporting life sciences entrepreneurship, including:
Bakar BioEnginuity Hub (BBH) and Bakar Labs: facility that supports life science and deep tech entrepreneurship with lectures, programming, advisor resources, and a world-class wetlab to grow a company.
Bakar Fellows Program: fellowship support for faculty, graduate students and postdocs interested in translating research to commercialization.
Bio Track @ Berkeley SkyDeck: top startup accelerator investing $200k per company, and providing extensive programming and hundreds of expert advisors.
- UC Berkeley Drug Discovery center: Fully equipped small molecule therapeutic discovery center with a 200k compound library and expertise in discovery and development through FDA approval.
QB3: startup-supporting labspace and graduate career resources.
Research Infrastructure Commons: first-of-its-kind program allowing startups to use idle research tools on campus and own the resultant IP.
Nucleate Bio Bay Area: student-run life science-focused startup accelerator, offering education, mentorship, and a pitch showcase.
LSEC’s first year focused on building programs:
I-Corps @ LSEC: industry-standard program to test an idea for market viability. Within a year, 34 academic teams conducted over 400 interviews.
Bio Startup Speed Teaming: matching scientists with business experts. 36 participants to date held 160 ten minute meetings, resulting in the formation of new companies.
Berkeley LSEC - Nucleate Venture Fellowship: experiential program for PhD students and postdocs interested in venture capital and entrepreneurship, 10 fellows to date, dozens of companies researched and prospective opportunities mined.
LSBE/LSEC Expert Council: 50+ experts willing to help Berkeley startups.
With these foundational resources - unique to Berkeley - we’re now building companies.
Berkeley LSEC Venture Grant Program
The March 2021 Regents Working Group on Innovation Transfer & Entrepreneurship identified the funding gap between “academic-based discovery and commercial application” as one of the top five ways to strengthen entrepreneurship at UC. The group noted a need for “proof of concept” funding to aid the “formation of spin-out companies.” See page 4 here. Lack of translational research funding was also one of the top pain points discovered during interviews performed while creating Berkeley LSEC.
$100k unrestricted R&D grant to academic teams to promote translation of Berkeley life sciences technology to commercialization. Funded and administered by Berkeley LSEC.
Up to $200k investment from the Berkeley SkyDeck Fund ($100k for 5% of startup, plus an additional $100k for 2.5% upon mutual agreement), with pro rata investment rights in future rounds.
Educational Benefits and Requirements
Admission to SkyDeck's Invested Cohort, including access to 600+ advisors, 70+ workshops, dozens of investors, and a huge demo day
Opportunity to present to David Kirn's BioEng 153/253: Biotechnology Entrepreneurship course
Participation in QB3’s SBIR Grantwriting Workshop
Optional participation in Berkeley Law's IP Practicum course, to help refine your IP strategy and assess freedom-to-operate
- Optional participation in Berkeley Haas's Lean Transfer course, to help further refine product-market-fit
Resources and Other Benefits
Access to Bakar Labs community events
Use of the Berkeley Research Infrastructure Commons Startup or Faculty Labs program
Academic teams of at least two members (a combination of Berkeley faculty, PhD students, postdocs, other biosciences graduate students based in an academic lab, as well as graduate-level business and engineering students), who are ready to incorporate a company
Life sciences field (therapeutics, diagnostics, medical device, research tools, not digital-only)
Innovation based on IP owned by UC Regents (or if in development, to be assigned to UC Regents), and invented at Berkeley
Applications for the second cohort are open now, deadline Jan 26, 2024, and we will award two grants in March 2024.
FAQs re LSEC Venture Grant Program
Do I need to have started a company already?
No, and we expect most Venture Grant awardees will not have already formed a company. This is a program to help you do it.
Am I really expected to start a company?
Yes, and we’ll help you do it!
Do I need to quit my day job?
No, and we don’t expect you to. Many academic startups begin with grad students, faculty, postdocs all continuing their usual research. In fact, because the $100k LSEC grant goes to an academic lab to support translational research, we expect you’ll still be doing academic work.
Do I need a team?
Yes, in that we’re not likely to support solo founders. The makeup of the “team” is flexible, though – it doesn’t have to be people with complementary skills. In fact, the expectation is many Venture Grant awardees will be simply a grad student or postdoc and their PI.
How will applications be evaluated?
Case-by-case. In general, we’re looking for the raw materials to make a moonshot startup. We understand the timeline may be slower as a venture emerges from an academic lab, but we’re looking for a pathway to success.
Is the award in exchange for equity in the startup?
Yes, and no. The $100k LSEC grant is non-dilutive, while the up to $200k investment from SkyDeck Fund is pursuant to a SAFE with a $2.66M post-money cap. $300k (and other huge benefits) for 7.5% of a just-incorporated company is a generous valuation. We believe in you.
Can we just get the LSEC grant and not the SkyDeck investment?
No, they're both part of the program. Do you think particpating in LSEC's Venture Grant program will increase the value of your startup by more than 7.5%? If so, this program is for you.
Are there any limitations on how the money may be spent?
The $100k LSEC grant may be used only for academic translational research. The $200k investment from SkyDeck is unrestricted.
I still have questions. Where do I get more info?
Find a time to chat with LSEC here.