The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one of the components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announces the 4th annual "$100,000 for Start a SUD Startup" Challenge. The Challenge goal is to support research ideas that would further an understanding of Substance Use Disorders (SUD) and that are intended to be the foundation for the development of successful new startups. NIDA expects that the contest will enable participants to test the premise that their research idea can be fostered into a biotech startup, and that eventually the newly created startups will contribute to the pool of innovative small business companies that can successfully compete for NIDA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding. The Challenge will offer up to ten awards of $10,000 each and technical expertise and mentoring from NIDA scientific research entrepreneurship experts. The Challenge total purse is up to $100,000.
NIDA is reissuing this Challenge after confirming its dependable success and popularity within the community in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The Challenge is a competition for participants with research ideas that would further an understanding of SUD and that are intended to be the foundation for the development of new successful startups. NIDA offers $100,000 together with the technical expertise and mentoring from scientific research entrepreneurship experts and expects that the contest will enable participants to test the premise that their research idea can be fostered into a biotech startup. This Challenge is unique because NIDA intends to provide the prize money and scientific research-based entrepreneurial assistance to the “would be” startup founders much earlier than most investors, incubators, or traditional models of research funding (e.g. small business grants). However, NIDA anticipates that, eventually, the newly created startups will contribute to the pool of innovative small business companies that can successfully compete for NIDA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding.
What does it take to participate in the Challenge? The participants must have a research idea directly related to SUD or that could be extended or adjusted to be useful for SUD. For a platform technology, the research idea must be broad enough to address multiple conditions, diseases, or indications, including SUD. For example, if the idea can only work for cancer or diabetes, entering this Challenge is not appropriate. However, if the plan is to test an idea for a research tool that would further an understanding of neurobiology or epigenetics relevant to SUD to advance the field faster and with greater fidelity, entering this Challenge is appropriate. The participants must also be interested in creating the startup around their research idea. The research “idea” is the product that the future startup will offer. Here, the term startup “product” is used in its broadest definition. Product is any source of value for the people who become customers. Services, subscriptions, software as a service (SaaS), physical/tangible products (biomedical devices, drugs, etc.), aggregations, etc. could all provide value and thus be considered startup products. The startup product could be the result of novel scientific discoveries, repurposing an existing technology for a new use, extending a research observation or discovery made in a different scientific area into SUD, devising a new business model or distribution/delivery channel that unlocks new value, or simply bringing a product or service to an underserved customer.
The potential startup founder must also have the passion, drive, discipline, ability to work collaboratively and willingness to push forward under conditions of extreme business uncertainty.
The winners of this Challenge are encouraged and offered training to use the prize money to develop a minimum viable product (MVP), to obtain customer feedback to discover if the MVP meets the customer needs, and to assess the feasibility of science-based small business creation, within 6 months post-award. Post Challenge, as with all other NIH grant applicants, NIDA staff will provide dedicated assistance and guidance about the grant submission process, including how to submit an SBIR/STTR application to NIDA’s small business programs.