The mission of iBIO Institute’s PROPEL Center is to increase the number and success rates of life sciences start-ups in Illinois. 

Started in 2007, PROPEL helps guide the development of formation-stage and early-stage life sciences companies by providing entrepreneurs with access to specialized resources and expertise to prepare them for early-stage funding. PROPEL has awarded >$1.2 million in grants and awards since 2007.  This has had a strong leverage effect: for each $1 awarded, PROPEL portfolio companies raised $214 in new funding.

Industry initially led the development of PROPEL through generous support from Abbott and AbbVie, Astellas Pharma US, Inc., Baxter International Inc. and Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America.  Today, PROPEL has strong support from the broad life sciences community encompassing the three pillars of financial support: corporate/industry; private foundations; and public/government. In the last several years, funding sources include: iBIO, corporate partners (listed above), grants from the Searle Funds of The Chicago Community Trust, US Small Business Administration, the City of Chicago and Illinois DCEO.

PROPEL’s Tiered Programming

PROPEL has a tiered programing model, with three levels of programs. Some programs are open to the public, while some are only offered to companies who are accepted into PROPEL through an application process (it is free to apply and free if accepted). Other programs are available only to active PROPEL companies that have achieved certain funding / commercialization milestones. This tiered approach ensures that PROPEL resources are utilized more efficiently.

PROPEL’s Level 1 programs are open to the public and include workshops, such as our 2-day, intense SBIR/STTR Grant Writing Workshop held three times each year; networking events; PROPEL Business Plan Competition, with cash prizes of $17,500; Innovation Showcase; and the PROPEL Intel monthly e-newsletter. Email to be added to our database.

In 2016, more than 650 people attended our 18 public workshops with an additional 300+ at our competition finals during iBIO IndEx.

View PROPEL’s upcoming public workshops and events

Once a startup company has applied and been accepted into PROPEL as an active portfolio company, additional Level 2 programs include: one-on-one coaching and mentoring; PROPEL’s network of subject matter experts; team-based mentoring via Chicago Innovation Mentors (PROPEL is a Founder and Sponsoring Institution of this initiative now CIM@MATTER); access to GBI Research; SBIR/STTR Assistance Awards; grants for BIO, MedTech and other conferences; PROPEL Connections publication for investors; access to investor conferences, funding opportunities, interns; and more.

In 2016, PROPEL:

  • Published PROPEL Connections in the Winter and Spring to more than 500 investors and investment community members
  • Awarded 11 active PROPEL companies grants to attend BIO Convention, AdvaMed and other key conferences.
  • Awarded 6 active PROPEL companies grants to support SBIR/STTR submission and compliance
  • Helped 10 active PROPEL companies access market research, deal flow and investor data via our platform subscription
  • Sponsored 5 active PROPEL companies into CIM@MATTER

More information

Once an active PROPEL company has achieved commercialization milestones and/or raised third-party funding, additional Level 3 programs include: Value-Enhancing Milestone Awards*; investment preparation assistance*; regulatory
planning assistance*; private workshops, including the series Setting the Stage for Investment with partner Sikich Investment Banking and Increasing Value for Investors; investor panels and practice pitch sessions; and more.

In 2016, PROPEL:

  • Held 6 private workshops
  • Awarded 3 Value-Enhancing Milestone awards
  • Awarded 5 Investment Preparation or Regulatory Planning Assistance grants or awards

PROPEL holds equity or future equity in more than 15 of its portfolio companies through these award programs.

*may include equity as part of award

More information

Donate Now to PROPEL’s 

Support PROPEL’s mission to increase the success rate and number of startup companies in Illinois. PROPEL’s programs and services are supported in part by the Searle Family Foundation at The Chicago Community Trust, but our ability to provide critical programming and connections for the startup ecosystem is supported by the community. Help us take the next step as our community is evolving and support our PROPEL programs. Donate today. Contact John Conrad to discuss opportunities.

Since 2007 PROPEL has worked with > 100 Companies


Funding for PROPEL comes in large part from