The Building a Biotech Venture Pitch Competition will showcase six teams — made up of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, research/scientific associates, scientists and clinicians — working on innovations that will impact diseases like heart failure, sepsis and cancer. This year’s competition will take place on Wed., March 27, at William Doo Auditorium at U of T.

Regenerative medicine aims to regenerate and repair the body with stem cells and other living therapies. Precision medicine focuses on the personalization of preventions and treatments for individual patients.

Competition harnesses emerging talent and encourages innovation

Allison Brown, Medicine by Design’s executive director, says that U of T and its affiliated hospitals are the home institutions to some of the most talented researchers in the world.

“The researchers and clinicians we work with through Building a Biotech Venture are working in world-leading regenerative and precision medicine labs” says Brown. “Many of them want to translate the cutting-edge discovery work they’ve been doing into a positive impact on society. The program is designed to help them start doing that.”

Since fall 2023, this year’s cohort has participated in an entrepreneurial education program tailored for the biotech industry. Each team participating in the program has worked through the earliest stages of commercializing a real-world technology or product that has emerged from their lab research.

pitch judges and audience

Judges and audience at the 2023 Building a Biotech Venture Pitch Competition. (Photo by Neil Ta.)

Six of the teams that went through the program have been selected to pitch their venture concept in front of four expert judges for the chance to receive one of two research funding grants, valued at $25,000 and $10,000.

The program has been running since 2021. It is a collaboration between Medicine by Design, an initiative that drives regenerative medicine research at U of T and its affiliated hospitals toward clinical impact; the Precision Medicine Initiative (PRiME), a U of T strategic initiative that aligns research efforts in the area of next-generation precision medicine at U of T and its global partners; the Health Innovation Hub (H2i), a campus-linked accelerator at U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine; and Talk Boutique, a full-service speaker representation and coaching company.

This year’s event will be the fourth annual pitch competition.

Teams are active and thriving beyond the program’s end

Many teams that formed and put together their initial business plan in the Building a Biotech Venture program over the past four years are still growing their ventures, with a number having gone on to secure additional investment.

HDAX Therapeutics, the 2021 Building a Biotech Venture Pitch Competition winner, also won a $250,000 award from the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research’s Entrepreneurship for Cardiovascular Health Opportunities (ECHO) program.


Nabanita Nawar, co-founder and CEO of HDAX Therapeutics, winner of the 2021 Building a Biotech Venture Pitch Competition. (Photo provided by Nananita Nawar.)

“Building a Biotech Venture was an incredible opportunity to showcase our technology, which really prompted us to take our venture to the next stage, and we formed the company shortly after the program,” says HDAX co-founder and CEO Nabanita Nawar.

In addition, 2022 winner DTPX went on to receive $100,000 at a competition for Ontario-based cancer entrepreneurs called Falcons’ Fortunes. Other winning and participating teams including SynakisNeuropeutics and Specifix DX have gone on to place in other competitions and secure additional pre-seed funding.

Paul Santerre, the director of H2i and a professor at the Faculty of Dentistry and the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at U of T, says that the program builds a foundation that gives the ventures staying power.

“Several teams from the past four years of the program year are still active with the support of H2i and Toronto’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. They’re winning pitches including U of T’s Desjardins Startup Prize, negotiating investments and advancing their IP,” says Santerre. “Because they learn to focus on critical matters during venture development in the program, they come out with the tools and support to keep progressing.”

The Building a Biotech Venture program is a complement to scientific education and training, says Akshita Vincent, director of strategy and partnerships at PRiME.

“By equipping participants with these essential skills, we not only lay the groundwork for the emergence of transformative products and ventures, but also foster a deep understanding of the multifaceted biotechnology sector. From developing intellectual property to learning about concepts like clinical translation, regulatory affairs and communications, these skills empower participants to navigate the industry and pursue impactful careers. Ultimately, the program enhances accessibility to life-changing innovations for patients in need,” Vincent says.

Register to watch the Building a Biotech Venture Pitch Competition.