Funding Resources

Cancer Researchers

Government – National

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

  • National Cancer Institute (NCI)

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Department of Defense (DoD)


Many foundations provide grants and fellowships


  • Sponsored research agreements are agreements between Grantees and commercial entities in which Grantees receive funding or other consideration to support their research in return for preferential access and/or rights to intellectual property deriving from their research results. Ex: Pfizer’s CTI.
    • Industry contracts – Scope of work defined by industry


  • Texas – Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT)
    • Merit-based grants awarded to researchers in Texas universities


  • Some universities offer translational gap funding and innovation awards.
    • Check your university’s website or talk to your tech transfer office


Although each startup follows a slightly different path, startups seeking institutional funding typically follow the depicted stages. In the seed stage, friends and family followed by angel investors will typically invest no more than $1-2M. Once the proof-of-concept is established, initial animal studies conducted and commercialization requirements understood, the startup can consider raising funding from venture capitalists. This type of funding comes in increments of $1-2M with each round designated with a letter, Series A, B, C etc. Expansion funding can also be raised to conduct extensive clinical trials, pursue regulatory approval and launch/expand in multiple markets. Finally, mezzanine funding is sought by companies that may not generate enough revenue to be self-sustaining. It is typically raised from later-stage VCs, private equity firms or crossover investors and can be used to build distribution channels, fund sales and marketing campaigns, develop product lines or attain reimbursement. This helps cement the company’s balance sheet in preparation for an IPO, after which the company goes public. Alternatively, a company may get acquired before it ever goes public.

Angel Investors

  • Experienced, accredited investors that invest their own money for an ownership stake
    • Accredited investors are those with an income of at least $200,000 each year for the last two years OR net worth $1M

Venture Capital

  • Traditional Venture Capital – Raise money from institutional investors (known as Limited Partner). Usually invest at Series A and beyond and increasingly at the seed stages. Ex: MPM Capital, 5AM Ventures
  • Corporate Venture Capital – Resemble traditional venture capital but made by a sole organization such as a pharmaceutical company, with a focus on strategic fit. Ex: Roche, AbbVie, Pfizer


  • When businesses, organizations or individuals fund a project or venture with small amounts of capital from many people (i.e. crowd)
  • Most relevant types for healthcare are:

Non-Dilutive Government Funding

  • SBIR – Congressionally-mandated program for small business concerns to engage in federal R&D with the potential for commercialization
  • STTR – Congressionally-mandated program to facilitate cooperative R&D between small business concerns and U.S. research institutions with the potential for commercialization
  • CPRIT – Product development awards are granted to companies that are based in Texas or willing to relocate in return for a revenue-sharing commitment


  • Venture Funds – Improve quality of care while reducing healthcare costs

Contests & Accelerators

  • Startup Pitch Competitions – Held in universities (Ex: RBPC) or sponsored by a company (Ex: AstraZeneca StartUP Science Competition). Most offer small amounts of capital ($10-100K) so may be better suited to healthcare IT or medical device startups
  • Accelerators – Startup accelerators support early stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship and financing. Startups enter accelerators for a fixed period of time, and as part of a cohort of companies (average acceptance rate 2%). Some accelerators provide seed funding in the $10K-120K range. Ex: TMCx, StartX, Startup Health

Additional Resources

  • Where to get research funding [Link]
  • Sponsored research/Industry partnerships – Differences between a contract, sponsored project and a gift [Link] 
  • Angel investor and venture capital basics [Link]
  • First thing to do before fundraising [Link]
  • Different types of crowdfunding and which platform may be right for you [Link]
  • How to pick the right startup competition [Link]
  • Top life science accelerators (as of 2019 and 2020) [Link]

Contact us for a curated list of funding sources and guidance on your funding strategy