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MIT Faculty Founder Initiative announces
Three winners of entrepreneurship awards

Twelve finalists participated in initiative and 2023-24 MIT-Royalty Pharma Prize Competition, designed to support female biotech pioneers.

Patients with intractable cancers, chronic pain sufferers, and people who depend on battery-powered medical implants may all benefit from the ideas presented at the 2023-24 MIT-Royalty Pharma Prize Competition’s recent awards. This year’s top prizes went to researchers and biotech entrepreneurs Anne Carpenter, Frederike Petzschner, and Betar Gallant ’08, SM ’10, PhD ’13. MIT Faculty Founder Initiative Executive Director Kit Hickey MBA ’13 describes the time and hard work the three awardees and other finalists devoted to the initiative and its mission of cultivating female faculty in biotech to cross the chasm between laboratory research and its clinical application.

 

“They have taken the first brave step of getting off the bench when they already work seven days a week. They have carved out time from their facilities, from their labs, from their lives in order to put themselves out there and leap into entrepreneurship,” Hickey says. “They’ve done it because they each want to see their innovations out in the world improving patients’ lives.”

Carpenter, senior director of the Imaging Platform at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she is also an institute scientist, won the competition’s $250,000 2023-24 MIT-Royalty Pharma Faculty Founder Prize Competition Grand Prize. Carpenter specializes in using microscopy imaging of cells and computational methods such as machine learning to accelerate the identification of chemical compounds with therapeutic potential to, for instance, shrink tumors. The identified compounds are then tested in biological assays that model the tumor ecosystem to see how the compounds would perform on actual tumors.

The MIT Faculty Founder Initiative was begun in 2020 by the School of Engineering and the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, based on research findings by Sangeeta Bhatia, the Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and faculty director of the MIT Faculty Founder Initiative; Susan Hockfield, MIT Corporation life member, MIT president emerita, and professor of neuroscience; and Nancy Hopkins, professor emerita of biology. An investigation they conducted showed that only about 9 percent of MIT’s 250 biotech startups were started by women, whereas women made up 22 percent of the faculty.