PhD Student Learns to Think and Act Like an Entrepreneur

“If I were cancer, I’d be afraid of us,” said Jordan Fredriksen Isaacs GR’23 one day last spring. Isaacs and her faculty mentor, Arti Gaur, PhD, assistant professor of neurology, had just won this year’s top award from the Dartmouth Innovations Accelerator for Cancer.

Jordan Isaacs GR’23 (right) is pursuing her doctoral degree in cancer biology in the lab of Arti Gaur, PhD (left).

Launched with $3.3 million in gifts from alumni and friends of Dartmouth, the Accelerator is a joint initiative of Dartmouth and Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center and Dartmouth’s Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship. More than 20 alumni from across Dartmouth have given of their time, expertise, and philanthropy—including several Geisel Board of Advisors members and alumna Uciane Scarlett, PhD’11. More donors and volunteers are needed to build on the Accelerator’s first year of success.

From November 2020 to April 2021, 17 teams of faculty and students participated in the Accelerator and then pitched their projects to an external review panel. The $300,000 award that the Gaur team received will help them bring a promising new treatment for brain cancer closer to clinical trials.

This sort of funding is critical—and hard to come by. Perhaps even more valuable is the education and training the Accelerator provides.

“We learned how to be entrepreneurs, with weekly lessons on commercialization, regulatory processes, fundraising, and building a business plan,” says Isaacs. “We learned how to create a formal pitch deck for investors, and how to garner interest in our project with a simple, 60-second pitch to anyone we meet.”

Even Gaur, an experienced entrepreneur, found the process invaluable: “I wish I had taken a course like this 10 years ago!”

Isaacs and Gaur are now part of a larger Dartmouth biomedical entrepreneur community—one they will stay connected to for years to come.

To learn how you can contribute your philanthropy or expertise to the Accelerator, email or call Bethany at (603) 646-5134.

Written by Jennifer Durgin