Tufts Launchpad | Accelerator

The Tufts Launchpad | Accelerator (TLA) is a grant program funded by the University to address the greatest challenge in academic technology transfer, which is the funding gap – often referred to as the “valley of death” – between where federal funding of basic research ends and commercial interest begins.

Jump to: Objectives   Project Types   Program Eligibility   Expectations   Funding   Project Duration   Terms & Conditions   Application   Important Dates   Winners

In many instances, university generated technologies and inventions, at the point at which they are disclosed to the technology transfer office, are just too early to attract established companies or investors interested in funding a start-up. The goal of the TLA Program is to advance Tufts invented technologies along a path toward product development, de-risking technologies by moving them past a critical risk/valuation point.  Examples might include, in the case of a molecular target for drug intervention, generation of hits or candidate leads, or in the case of a therapeutic candidate, demonstration of efficacy in a relevant preclinical disease model, or in the case of a device or instrument, development of a prototype. The application process for the second round of funding is outlined below.

Objectives

To accelerate research projects towards one of the following outcomes:

  • Securing follow-on industrial funding for continued R&D.
  • Forming a start-up company.
  • Licensing technology to an established company.

Project Types

The Tufts Launchpad | Accelerator (TLA) Program is designed to support translational research aimed at extending preliminary observations, establishing proof-of-concept, scaling-up a product or process, and generating (or enhancing) intellectual property (IP) positions.

Program Eligibility

Only applicants who meet and agree to the following criteria will be considered eligible to submit an application.

  • You must be either a: Full-time Tufts faculty member, emeritus faculty with an active University research lab, post-doctoral fellow, or Ph.D. level graduate student.
  • The technology, which provides the basis for the project proposal, must not yet be licensed or optioned to a third-party.
  • The IP surrounding the invention disclosure must be owned by Tufts. Please contact OTTIC if you are unsure of the IP ownership of your invention. If IP is jointly owned with another institution, an inter-institutional agreement (IIA) must be in place with Tufts designated as the commercialization lead.
  • The project proposal must be focused on commercial product development or testing. Funding cannot be used for basic exploratory studies or as general funding for a principal investigator’s lab. Projects should address how achieving identified project milestones will move that invention towards commercialization.
  • Only one TLA project may be submitted per individual per funding cycle. Investigators with multiple technology disclosures should focus their proposal on the most commercially promising technology within their portfolio.
  • If you are a previous TLA Program recipient and your project is still in progress and/or still receiving TLA Program funding, you are ineligible to apply.
  • Each project milestone should be achievable within 6 months. The first project milestone should be achievable within 6 months of the start of funding within the requested budget.
  • You must adhere to the template and word limitations in the application. Any words over the maximum allowed will be deleted and not evaluated.
  • By submitting this application, you acknowledge that your project proposal is eligible for submission based on the criteria set forth above.
  • Only applicants submitting an application and who are subsequently invited to present their work to the external evaluation committee will be considered eligible for funding.

Expectations

If you are asked to present to the external evaluation committee you must be able to:Work closely with Farnaz Bakhshi and your case manager from OTTIC to develop a presentation in PowerPoint format.

  • Be available for at least 2 in-person meetings with the OTTIC team to discuss your project and conduct mock presentations.
  • Present your proposed project to the external review committee on the date and time selected for you.
  • Work with the TLA Program team to negotiate the appropriate milestones and budget to complete the work.
  • Recognize that funding will be determined by the external evaluation committee to align with the work necessary to achieve proof-of -concept and return unused funds upon completion of your final milestone.
  • Upon selection for funding, participate in commercialization related activities and provide regular updates to the program team.

Funding

  • Awards will be up to $75,000 per project, although larger requests will be considered.
  • The TLA Program will generally fund 4-6 projects each year.
  • Funding is for direct costs only and is not subject to Tufts’ Facilities & Administrative (F&A) Costs on Sponsored Awards: Recovery and Distribution policy.

Project Duration

Proposed projects should last between 12 to 18 months

Terms and Conditions of the Award

  • The winner will lead and oversee the project.
  • All IP, including background patents, must be assigned to Tufts.
  • Budget items may not include salaries or capital equipment. Certain other types of expenses are also excluded (for example, cost share on sponsored awards).
  • Upon completion of each milestone, the winner will submit a brief (one-half to one page) milestone summary to the TLA Program (Farnaz.Bakhshi@tufts.edu).
  • Any change in project scope or use of funds requires prior approval (for example, any extensions).
  • Within thirty (30) days of completion of the project, the winner will submit a final report to the TLA Program (Farnaz.Bakhshi@tufts.edu).

Application Timing, Format, and Selection Process

  • Applications are due on March 15, 2021.
  • Applications must be received no later than midnight on the day of the deadline in Microsoft Word (.doc/.docx) or PDF (.pdf) format. Applications should be submitted by e-mail to Farnaz.Bakhshi@tufts.edu. The subject line should read “Tufts Launchpad | Accelerator Application.”
  • All applications are non-confidential.
  • Applications will be reviewed internally, and a subset of applicants will be invited to present to the external evaluation committee comprising entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and industry leaders.
  • Applications chosen for presentation to the external evaluation committee will be announced April 5, 2021.
  • Presentations to the external evaluation committee will not be kept confidential and should only contain non-confidential materials.
  • Solicited presentations will be due on May 3, 2021.
  • Funded projects will be selected based on feedback from the external evaluation committee. All applicants will be notified of funding decisions by June 14, 2021.

Tufts Launchpad Accelerator Application (PDF)

Selection Criteria

  • The review criteria will emphasize the commercial potential of the research project; the existence of (or possibility of filing) intellectual property; and the delineation of a clear R&D roadmap detailing how TLA funding will lead to a value-creation inflection point.
  • Particular consideration will be given to those projects that could result in a start-up company.

Important Dates

  • March 15, 2021: Deadline to submit non-confidential applications
  • April 5, 2021: Announce decisions / solicit presentations
  • May 3, 2021: Deadline to submit non-confidential solicited presentations
  • TBD: Present to the external evaluation committee
  • June 14, 2021: Announce funding decisions
  • August 16, 2021: Funds released for awarded projects

TLA 2020 Winners

The Tufts Launchpad | Accelerator (TLA) Program is designed to support translational research aimed at extending preliminary observations, establishing proof-of-concept, scaling-up a product or process, and generating (or enhancing) intellectual property (IP) positions. The first round of the TLA program consisted of applicants submitting a written proposal that was reviewed internally within the OVPR. After an internal review, selected applicants were asked to continue and present to the external evaluation committee. The applicants made their oral presentations to the external evaluation committee on May 21, 2020. The external evaluation committee consisted of venture capitalists, industry experts and business leaders. With input from the external evaluation committee, four winners were selected to receive funding for their projects. Each project was awarded up to $75,000. 

The winners of the second TLA funding round are:

Title: Next generation drug development for depression
Name: Jamie Maguire

Title: Utilizing stem cell activation through siRNA as a therapy for smell loss
Name: James E. Schwob

Title: Optimizing a high-yield, low-cost bioprocess for the rare sugar tagatose
Name: Nikhil Nair

Title: Silk based high strength adhesives
Name: Fiorenzo Omenetto and Marco Lopresti

Past Winners