PROPEL Programs

The mission of iBIO Institute’s PROPEL Center is to increase the number and success rates of life sciences start-ups in Illinois. 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’s has a tiered programing 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).  This tiered approach ensures that PROPEL resources are utilized more efficiently.

PROPEL Partners

In 2016, PROPEL partnered with more than 50 organizations and collaborators representing corporate / industry members, investor organizations, service providers, academic research institutions, national partners, and incubators or other not-for-profits.  These include: Abbott; AbbVie; AdvaMed; AdvaMed Conference; Aptinyx; Argonne National Laboratory; Baxter; Baxter Ventures; BBCetc; BioStrategies Group; Cascade Partners; Chicago Advisory Board; Chicago Biomedical Consortium; Chicago Innovation Mentors/MATTER; Elsworth; EnterpriseWorks Chicago / HTI; Essenial Pharma; Fir Hill; Horizon Pharma; HUB; Illinois Science and Technology Coalition; IllinoisVENTURES; Insight Accelerator; Insight PD; InvestMidwest; Life Science Nation; Lilly; MBHB; McCarthy Duffy; McGuireWoods; MedTech Innovator; MHIN; MHVF/MedCity News; Nelsen Biomedical; Northern Illinois University; Northwestern University; Perkins Coie; Pfizer; Rush University Medical Center; Sandbox; Sikich Investment Banking; simMachines; Stateline Angels; Takeda; Takeda Ventures; Thomas McNerney & Partners; TriNet; University of Chicago; University of Illinios at Chicago and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign; University Tech Park at IIT; US Small Business Administration; Venture Investors; Women in Bio –Chicago Chapter; ZL Advisors; and other private consultants and private investors.

Educational Opportunities

Three times each year, PROPEL hosts a 2-day Intensive Workshop on SBIR/STTR Grant Writing covering all aspects of writing SBIR/STTR grants focused on life science technologies including: eligibility, sources of funding and agency differences, understanding what reviewers look for, step-by-step instruction on how to write each section of your proposal. The workshop covers all agencies, including Department of Defense, National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, with detailed emphasis on NIH.

For more information on PROPEL’s upcoming 2-day SBIR/STTR Grant Writing Workshop, click HERE.


PROPEL offers additional workshops, seminars and educational opportunities with community partners that are useful for formation-stage and early-stage life sciences companies.

Held annually, the PROPEL Business Plan Competition spotlights formation-stage and early-stage life sciences companies in Illinois and the surrounding Midwest. Past winners include Advanced Cooling Therapy, Corvida Medical, Diagnostic Photonics, Endotronix, NovaScan and PixelEXX Systems.  The winner receives a cash prize of $15,000; second place $2,500.


PROPEL portfolio companies are often invited to iBIO’s CEO Roundtables, offering entrepreneurs and small company senior executives an opportunity to exchange information and brainstorm ideas on how to move their businesses forward in a small, informal group setting with CEOs of successful life sciences companies of all sizes.

PROPEL provides its portfolio companies and other life sciences startups additional opportunities throughout the year for informal networking throughout the year. These informal events are opportunities for the community to gather together in a low-pressure environment, have a little fun, chat about technology or business breakthroughs and expand personal networks.

(PROPEL Companies Only)

Once a startup company has applied and been accepted into PROPEL, 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

Conference Grants

For information on PROPEL’s grants to the BIO Convention, MedTech Conference and other conferences throughout the year, visit PROPEL’S GRANTS AND AWARDS


For information on PROPEL’s awards related to SBIRs and STTRs, visit PROPEL’S GRANTS AND AWARDS

GBI Research

PROPEL provides our active startups with access to the databases of GBI Research to help with market research, deal flow, clinical trial data, investment details, etc.  This includes both GBI for pharma/therapeutics and Global Data – Medical for devices, diagnostics and medtech.  This is available at no cost for our active PROPEL companies. Click HERE for more details.


PROPEL is a Founder and Sponsoring Institution of this initiative since its start in 2010.  Chicago Innovation Mentors (CIM@MATTER) supports university-based and local healthcare and complex science-based technology innovation ventures commercialization in the Chicago area through the use of mentor teams by recruiting accomplished executives and entrepreneurs to volunteer to team mentor early-stage innovators. CIM supports opportunities at a wide range of stages, from earliest idea to company formation.  Visit for more info.  PROPEL sponsors new mentees into CIM from PROPEL’s active company portfolio.

(PROPEL Companies Only)

Conference Grants

Each year, PROPEL awards its companies with grants to help with registration costs for important conventions and conferences, including the BIO International Convention and the MedTech Conference (previously known as AdvaMed).


Eligibility for this grant program includes:

  • An active PROPEL company for at least 6 months
  • The company has not received a conference/convention grant from PROPEL for the last 12 months
  • At least $50,000 in formal, dilutive or non-dilutive funding raised by the company

Approved grants will cover full or partial registration only, determined by PROPEL, and will not cover travel, hotel and related incidentals. Approved grant recipients are responsible for paying for registration; PROPEL will reimburse paid registration expenses upon submission of appropriate documentation.

Click  HERE for more information on PROPEL’s grants to conferences.

In 2016, PROPEL awarded 11 active PROPEL companies grants to attend BIO Convention, AdvaMed (now MedTech Conference) and other key conferences.

BIO Convention

Each year, PROPEL awards grants to help with registration fees for the annual BIO Convention to help with access to the BIO Business Forum’s 1-on-1 partnering; the BIO Entrepreneurship Boot Camp; and/or additional registration fees.

MedTech Conference (previously known as AdvaMed Conference)

Each year, PROPEL awards grants to help with registration fees for the annual MedTech Conference to help with accessing the Innovation Showcase and/or general registration.

Other Conferences

Grant applications will be reviewed by PROPEL on a rolling basis for any critical conference other than the BIO Convention and MedTech Conference. The application deadline is no less than 60 days prior to an event’s start date, although companies are strongly encouraged to apply at least 30 days before an early bird registration deadline, if one exists.


There are three PROPEL award options:  1) Technical Assistance Awards to assist PROPEL companies in the preparation of SBIR or STTR grant submissions; 2) Grants Management Toolkit Awards to assist PROPEL companies with the implementation of a grants management program upon approval of an SBIR or STTR grant; and 3) Commercialization Assistance Awards to assist in the development of a commercialization plan for Phase II/IIB submissions or post Phase II recipients.

In 2016, PROPEL awarded 6 active PROPEL companies grants to support SBIR/STTR submission and compliance.

PROPEL partners with BBCetc for its SBIR/STTR Awards.

Award Types

PART A: PROPEL Technical Assistance Awards

PROPEL will provide qualified PROPEL companies and/or PROPEL participants with consultant services to assist in the preparation of SBIR or STTR grant submissions. These services will be designed to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs to identify, advance, prepare, and/or review Phase I SBIR or STTR proposals.


PART B: PROPEL Grants Management Toolkit Awards

PROPEL will provide qualified PROPEL companies and/or PROPEL participants with consultant services to assist in the implementation of a grants management program upon approval of an SBIR or STTR grant.


PART C: PROPEL Commercialization Assistance Awards

PROPEL will provide qualified PROPEL companies and/or PROPEL participants with consultant services to assist and/or co-lead the development of a commercialization plan for a) Phase II or Phase IIB SBIR or STTR submissions, or b) post-Phase II SBIR or STTR recipients.

Email for detailed information on the PROPEL SBIR/STTR Awards Program.  Applications are available to PROPEL companies upon request.

Download the flyer for more information

Milestone Awards

PROPEL established the PROPEL Milestone Award Program to assist active PROPEL companies with obtaining professional services for:

  • Comprehensive business planning assistance
  • Preparation for post-seed stage investment
  • Development of detailed regulatory planning and strategy
  • Other projects that are directly linked to value-enhancing milestone achievement

These awards include 3 distinct award options:

  • Value-Enhancing Milestone Awards
  • Investment Preparation Assistance Awards
  • Regulatory Planning Assistance Awards

In 2016, PROPEL awarded 3 Value-Enhancing Milestone awards and 5 Investment Preparation or Regulatory Planning Assistance grants or awards.

Awards are available only to PROPEL companies that have actively participated in PROPEL’s educational programming and is part of the mission and programmatic efforts of PROPEL.

Applications for the Value Enhancing Milestone Awards are reviewed twice each calendar year. The Spring deadline is May 15 and Fall deadline is Oct. 15. Approved awards will be announced in approximately June and November.  Awards below roughly $7,500 are non-dilutive, while awards above roughly $7,500 are dilutive, usually in the form of a SAFE.

Applications for Investment Preparation Assistance and Regulatory Planning Assistance awards are reviewed on an as-needed basis.

Eligible PROPEL companies have:

  • been active in PROPEL for a minimum of 1 year
  • raised a minimum of $150k of non-founder/management investment
  • not received this award during the last 12 months
  • actively participated in PROPEL’s educational programming

Click HERE for more information on and the application to PROPEL’s Milestone Awards.  Email with questions.

Funding for PROPEL comes in large part from