Harvard Accelerator Program, Proving Its Mettle with Startups and Pharma Partnerships, Looks to Raise Big New Fund

8/11/11Follow @gthuang

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the university in 2005 and had previously worked in tech transfer and industrial partnerships in senior roles at Tel Aviv University and New York University. Keith, who joined in early 2008, previously co-founded Cambridge, MA-based CombinatoRx (now called Zalicus) and is a Harvard PhD (in chemistry and chemical biology).

Looking back on the first four years of the Accelerator program, Kohlberg singles out five factors that have been important in its growth:

—Its focus on life sciences, which makes up some 60 percent of Harvard research.

—The governance structure for making investment decisions (a small group of people, mostly from industry).

—An internal project management system, including staff to manage grants, projects, and R&D roadmaps.

—The flexibility to perform certain parts of the chosen projects in external contract research organizations, not just in Harvard labs.

—Being integrated with Harvard’s business development program, which includes intellectual property and licensing transactions.

Meanwhile, the biggest challenge in the early days of the program was having a clear R&D roadmap with milestones for each project, Kohlberg says. “When you build bridges across death valley, you need to make sure the bridge ends up on the other bank, and not in midair,” Kohlberg says.

Part of what differentiates the Harvard program, Keith adds, is that “other universities give out money, but there’s not the sense of ownership and sense of urgency and focus on results.”

So what kinds of projects have received funding from the program, and what has come of them?

One example comes from Harvard professor Tobias Ritter, whose research on … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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