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 PROPEL@ibioinstitute.org 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.
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
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
Donate Now to PROPEL’s Campaign to Launch Our New SBIR/STTR Matching Awards
Join the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust in its fundraising challenge to PROPEL: after an initial $100,000 grant, when PROPEL raises $400,000, the Searle Funds will provide an additional $200,000. PROPEL’s new SBIR/STTR Matching Awards will not only immediately leverage federal, non-dilutive funding and help further reduce investment risk at a critical development stage, but also builds an evergreen fund for PROPEL and its portfolio of life sciences. SBIR/STTR matching funds are proven, well-respected and effective: many US states offer this funding to their small businesses. Contact Barbara Goodman to discuss restricted donations and/or a specific philanthropic area of interest.
“PROPEL plays a critical role in solidifying our region’s role as a major center of life sciences innovation and STEM education. This work is essential to the long-term strength of our regional economy and we are delighted to provide continued support because of the generosity of the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust.” Terry Mazany, President and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust
“We attended our first AdvaMed conference last year and are thrilled to really participate this year as part of the Innovation Showcase. We would not be in the position we are without the support of PROPEL and iBIO. They have provided opportunities to learn from experts and network with other startups who are working through the many issues that early stage companies all go through.” John Hart, President of Preora Diagnostics
“It is an honor to be selected as the winner from among all of the strong finalists. We have the potential to improve the detection and treatment of skin and other cancers, and PROPEL is helping us realize this goal. PROPEL is and has been a great asset to NovaScan and many other young companies in the life sciences community. It is an integral part of the ecosystem, and it catalyzes growth and success.” Craig Davis, NovaScan’s CEO
Funding for PROPEL comes in large part from