Chicago Biomedical Consortium Secures $13.5 Million to Scale Work, Support for Life Sciences Industry

The mission of the Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC) is to stimulate collaboration among scientists at Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, the University of Illinois Chicago, and other Chicagoland institutions to accelerate discovery and expand the Chicago-based life sciences ecosystem.

The Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC) has received an additional $13.5 million in funding from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust to expand its mission.

Launched in 2001 by Daniel Searle, the CBC is a unique organization that stimulates and accelerates biomedical discovery and collaboration among the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois Chicago, and Northwestern University.

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The CBC’s first phase (2001-2016) promoted inter-institutional collaboration; the second (2016-2021) focused on translating member institutions’ basic research into biomedical applications. This third and most recent round of funding, to be provided over the next three years, enables the CBC to continue and expand its mission. To support these goals, the organization has recently revamped its processes to parallel industry-grade drug development and help professors develop research and business plans.

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Phase three will centralize resources to provide academic researchers with the advice, expert networks, and funding needed to turn their science into translations. Ideas are fielded by the CBC and, through deep research, funding recommendations and research plans are developed.

The additional investment will expand CBC programming to provide professors at Chicago’s flagship universities with deep market, technical, and clinical analysis, as well as project management, seed funding, and introductions to venture capital and networks of expertise critical to the success of any bioventure. The new CBC process incorporates the CBC’s Venture Board, an exclusive board of 19 industry and venture capital groups, which provides feedback and guidance to the CBC’s assessment of faculty’s early commercialization strategies. The CBC also advises on experts and key experiments to include as projects mature.

In addition to the CBC’s Venture Board, the central components of the new CBC process are:

  • The Accelerator Award (non-dilutive $250,000 grant): Groundwork laid in previous phases makes the CBC well-positioned to provide a level of analysis not typically available at universities. Faculty applicants work with Entrepreneurial Fellows to develop translational plans and commercial business cases for high-quality academic research. These plans and a case for funding are presented to the CBC’s Venture Board whose input helps the CBC determine whether to fund with the award.
  • The Entrepreneurial Fellows Program: Piloted in 2022, program inclusively finds and retains the best junior scientists in the Midwest to develop faculty-driven, early-stage projects into viable commercial ventures. The program has grown to include 11 PhD Fellows, five of whom are from historically underrepresented groups. Fellows are paid full-time for two years to work alongside Chicago’s outstanding scientist entrepreneurs, learning the business of early science commercialization and gaining the experience necessary to become crucial players in Chicago’s burgeoning biotech ecosystem.

The CBC has made 323 awards ($55.1 million total) to researchers at its member universities since 2006. These awards provided early commercialization seed funding, which improved investor confidence, approaching $1 billion ($920 million) in outside funding to CBC awardees. The CBC will continue its funding of high-quality, inter-institutional academic projects, which will be validated through the CBC’s business analysis core – a key component of the academic, entrepreneurial service center.

“The CBC was really the first model in Chicago that showed the universities can collaborate on great programs in life sciences,” said Thelma Tennant, assistant vice president, corporate engagement at the University of Chicago, “The CBC demonstrates that when ideas and resources are allowed to flow freely, scientific discovery is accelerated.”

Continuing the spirit of collaboration, the CBC will create the Affinity Groups – diverse groups of academic thought leaders who form scientific networks across member universities to identify and develop projects that address the most pressing questions in topics such as neuroscience and cancer. Through the Affinity Group Awards, the CBC will fund the most promising projects, as determined by the Affinity Group members themselves.

The CBC also will expand the CBC Accelerator Network, which connects universities, scientists, experts, service providers, investors, and emerging innovation districts to form a social web that conducts knowledge, capital, experience, and advice to its members. Expansion will focus on recruiting additional universities and building partnerships with contract research organizations and industry partners, especially women and BIPOC industry professionals, who will provide advice on translating academic projects into viable commercialization projects.

// The CBC was launched in 2006 with a generous annual grant award from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. To date, more than $76 million has been invested into CBC initiatives to promote Chicago’s biomedical community resulting in more than 323 awards granted, over 2,715 research papers published, six national research centers established, and over $920 million dedicated to research funding. Learn more at

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