Success Stories
With a bold spirit of entrepreneurship, we enable our researchers and clinicians to pursue new possibilities for delivering health.

UCSF is the birthplace of biotech, nurturing innovators that have gone on to start Genentech, Chiron (now Novartis), and other industry giants. The University continues to nurture a bold spirit of entrepreneurship that enables our researchers and clinicians to pursue new possibilities for delivering health. 

To date, more than 185 startups have come from UCSF.

Startup News

Gilead Sciences and Kite to Acquire Cell Design Labs, One of UCSF Startups for up to $567 MM

Gilead Sciences, Inc. and its cell therapy subsidiary Kite announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which they have agreed to acquire Cell Design Labs, Inc., gaining new technology platforms that will enhance research and development efforts in cellular therapy. Under the terms of the agreement, Gilead will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Cell Design Labs, which includes the approximately 12.2 percent of shares of Cell Design Labs that are currently held by Kite, for up to approximately $567 million. The agreement includes an initial upfront payment of approximately $175 million, subject to certain adjustments, and additional payments of up to $322 million that will be paid to the shareholders of Cell Design Labs other than Kite upon the occurrence of certain events, including the achievement of development and approval milestones. The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, and is expected to close shortly... Read More: Business Wire; also mentioned in SF Business Times

UCSF Startup Pionyr Immunotherapeutics Completes $62 Million Series B Financing to Advance Antibody-based Therapeutics Targeting the Tumor Microenvironment

Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, Inc., a company developing antibody therapeutics that increase the body's antitumor immunity by rebalancing the myeloid infiltrate in the tumor microenvironment, announced the closing of a $62 million Series B investment round. This brings total funding since the company's founding in 2015 to $72 million. The Series B financing was led by New Enterprise Associates and included Sofinnova Ventures and Vida Ventures, along with Pionyr's existing investors, OrbiMed, SV Health Investors, Osage University Partners, and Mission Bay Ventures... "Our technology has led to a promising pipeline of potential new therapeutics against novel and highly specific targets in the tumor microenvironment," Max Krummel, Ph.D., UC San Francisco professor, Pionyr co-founder and member of the board of directors said. "We believe these drug candidates hold the keys to an untapped area of immuno-oncology and may have a significant impact on multiple cancers."... Read More: Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, Inc. Press Release

FDA Approves First Implanted Lens Developed by RxSIGHT, One of UCSF Startups that can be Adjusted after Cataract Surgery to Improve Vision Without Eyeglasses

RxSight, Inc. announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the RxSight™ Light Adjustable Lens and the Light Delivery Device (LDD) for patients with pre-existing astigmatism of ≥ 0.75 diopters undergoing cataract surgery. This action ushers in a new era in the treatment of cataracts, as RxSight's Light Adjustable Lens is the first and only FDA approved intraocular lens (IOL) that can be adjusted post-operatively to improve uncorrected visual acuity... Read More: RxSight, Inc. Press Release; also mentioned in FDA News Release

Elemeno Health, a UCSF Startup Backed by Tech Accelerator Y Combinator, has Developed a Personal Assistant for Hospital Staff

Elemeno Health started building something akin to a personal assistant for hospital staff while in Y Combinator last summer. Founders Arup Roy-Burman, MD and Ed Nanale started the company after Burman’s many years handling teams as UCSF’s intensive care unit director. Burman noticed staff sharing binders and asking for copies of certain papers but thought there was a better way to share the information... Read More: TechCrunch

Relievant Medsystems, Inc., a UCSF Startup, Secures $36 Million in Equity Financing for INTRACEPT® Clinical Development and Commercial Launch Preparation

Relievant Medsystems, Inc., a privately held medical device company pioneering the therapeutic use of nerve ablation within vertebral bodies for the treatment of chronic low back pain (CLBP), announced that it has secured $36 million in equity financing. New Enterprise Associates (NEA) led the financing with participation from Canaan Partners, Emergent Medical Partners and Morgenthaler Ventures. INTRACEPT®Intraosseous Nerve Ablation System recently received FDA clearance to treat chronic low back pain (CLBP) based on results of landmark SMART clinical trial... Read More: Relievant Medsystems, Inc. Press Release

Licensing News

Vanda and UCSF Announce License Agreement for CFTR Activators and Inhibitors

Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced that it has entered into a license agreement with UCSF, under which Vanda will acquire an exclusive worldwide license from UCSF to develop and commercialize a portfolio of Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) activators and inhibitors. UCSF is eligible to receive up to $46 million in potential development, regulatory and sales milestones as well as single-digit tiered royalties on net sales should a product be successfully commercialized... Read More: Vanda Press Release

Licensing Deal Reached Between Provenance Biofabrics and UCSF to Harness Cutting-edge Advances in Synthetic Biology to Build Leather

Provenance Biofabrics, Inc., a company building leather by harnessing recent advances in synthetic biology and bioengineering, (recently) announced that has it has partnered with UC San Francisco (UCSF) on an exclusive license of technologies developed in the Gartner Laboratory. Under the agreement, Provenance Biofabrics will further develop the technology and commercialize a leather equivalent for the textile industry. UCSF will receive undisclosed royalty and milestone payments. Provenance is building leather by sculpting collagen, the primary protein component of skin, using principles of directed self-assembly pioneered in the Gartner Lab. Zev Gartner, PhD, a co-founder of Provenance Biofabrics, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at UCSF and co-director of the Center for Cellular Construction. His research aims to identify new strategies to build tissues by harnessing the self-organizing properties of cells and cell-derived materials... Read More: Provenance Press Release

MIODx Licenses Key Immunotherapy Technologies from UCSF to Develop Highly Effective Diagnostic Assays to Monitor a Patient for Response to Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Therapy

MIODx announced today that it has signed an exclusive license for two key immunotherapy technologies developed by Lawrence Fong, MD, a leader of the Cancer Immunotherapy Program at the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). The first technology provides a method to monitor a patient for response to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy such as PD-L1 and CTLA-4. The second license extends the technology with a method to detect if a patient is likely to have an immune-related adverse event (IRAE) from their immunotherapy regimen... Read More: PR Newswire

Project News

Catalyst + Plus to Provide Additional Support to Previous Catalyst Projects

Catalyst has expanded its program to Catalyst + Plus, a new addition that aims to provide additional support to past Catalyst projects with a successful progress yet still seeking business advice and/or supplemental funding. The first Catalyst + Plus took place this fall.

Charles Chiu Uses Next-Gen Precision Diagnostics to ID Infectious Diseases

Previous Catalyst and UC CAI awardee Prof. Charles Chiu, MD PhD,  co-founder of the Center for Next Gen Precision Diagnostics has been a key driver in the development of a genome sequencing test now approved for clinical use. The test can be used for diagnosing mysterious cases of neurological infection in acutely ill patients. Read more. See related article in Time/Health.

​Rebecca Sudore Receives Grant for Prepare Website

Another Catalyst awardee, Rebecca Sudore, MD, won a $650,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for integrating easy-to-read, culturally-appropriate, evidenced-based advance directives for all US states into the PREPARE website.

Tippie MacKenzie Receives Grant to Use Stem-Cell Therapy to Treat Alpha-Thalassemia Major

Under a $12.1 million grant, Tippi MacKenzie at the University of California San Francisco will develop a stem cell therapy to treat alpha-thalassemia major, a fetal blood disorder that is usually fatal. The therapy consists of bone marrow-derived hematopoietic stem cells from the mother transplanted into the baby before birth.

UCSF Immunoprofiler Initiative

The UCSF Immunoprofiler Initiative is an innovative sponsored research alliance backed by >$10M in funding from three global pharmaceutical companies—Bristol-Myers Squibb, Amgen, and AbbVie. Launched out of Max Krummel’s lab in the Department of Pathology, Immunoprofiler collects and analyzes flow cytometry, RNAseq, and imaging data from fresh human tumor samples to characterize their immune cell composition with the goal of improving the efficacy of immunotherapy across a wide range of cancer types. Data for at least 500 tumor samples will be collected, and sponsoring alliance members receive full access to the data to inform their own early R&D and clinical efforts in immuno-oncology. (2017 Press Release)

Zebrafish-to-Patient Approach Speeds Search for Childhood Epilepsy Treatments

Scott Baraban, PhD, professor of neurological surgery, had won a Catalyst award for his work showing the efficacy of testing certain drugs in zebrafish, and this year demonstrated the strategy’s success in a clinical trial. In that trial, children with Dravet syndrome, a rare and devastating genetic form of epilepsy that can cause hundreds of seizures per day, responded to the same medication that tested well in zebrafish. Baraban has been working with postdoc Aliesha Griffin, PhD, a former Catalyst intern. 



Formed by CEO Howard Look in collaboration with a UCSF faculty team of Saleh Adi, Aaron Neinstein, and Jenise Wong, is a non-profit building software to help people with diabetes make better decisions. Tidepool’s open-source software is in use by thousands of patients and physicians and Tidepool's Big Data Donation Project is enabling access to a massive diabetes data repository for researchers and innovators. Tidepool has been honored as a champion of precision medicine by the Obama White House and chosen by the FDA to be one of nine companies to participate in their Digital Health PreCertification Pilot.

ShangPharma Innovation

The UCSF Catalyst Team is enthusiastic about the new collaboration between UCSF and ShangPharma Innovation Inc. to advance the translation of early stage research towards products for patients. Projects will be selected for support through the collaboration from proposals coming into the Catalyst Therapeutics Track. Read more.


Accelerating Therapeutics for Opportunities in Medicine (ATOM) Collaboration - Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, GSK, and UCSF Partner on Effort

Scientists from two U.S. national laboratories, industry, and academia launched an unprecedented effort to transform the way cancer drugs are discovered by creating an open and sharable platform that integrates high-performance computing, shared biological data from public and industry sources, and emerging biotechnologies to dramatically accelerate the discovery of effective cancer therapies. The goal of this public-private consortium – Accelerating Therapeutics for Opportunities in Medicine (ATOM) – is to create a new paradigm of drug discovery that would reduce the time from an identified drug target to clinical candidate from the current approximately six years to just 12 months. ATOM aims to transform cancer drug discovery from a time-consuming, sequential, and high-risk process into an approach that is rapid, integrated, and with better patient outcomes – using supercomputers to pretest many molecules simultaneously for safety and efficacy. The consortium comprises the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), GSK, the National Cancer Institute’s Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR), and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).  ATOM welcomes additional public and private partners who share the vision... Read More: UCSF Press Release

UCSF, GE Healthcare Launch Deep Learning Partnership to Advance Care Globally

UCSF’s Center for Digital Health Innovation (CDHI) and GE Healthcare have announced a partnership to develop a library of deep learning algorithms – complex problem-solving formulas – that will empower clinicians to make faster and more effective decisions about the diagnosis and management of patients with some of the most common and complex medical conditions... Read More: UCSF Press Release; also mentioned in Fast Company Magazine

Centers for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI)

The partnership between UCSF and Pfizer’s Center for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI) began in 2010, serving as the model for many industry-university partnerships that emerged across the country in later years. Together, UCSF and Pfizer CTI identify and execute research collaborations that 1) accelerate the discovery and development of innovative antibody drugs or 2) identify potential new small molecules against novel disease targets. Pfizer CTI has funded many projects at UCSF to date, and Pfizer continues to partner with UCSF by other mechanisms as well. (2017 Press Release)

New Programs
UC Drug Discovery Consortium to Speed Development of Life-Saving Therapies 

Catalyst is helping establish the University of California Drug Discovery Consortium, an effort across the UC system’s five medical campuses—UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCSF, UCLA & UC San Diego—to figure out ways to work together to speed the development of potentially life-saving therapies. Tralau-Stewart is principal investigator on a  $2.2 million, three-year grant from UC’s Multicampus Research Programs & Initiatives focusing on early translation of academic discovery research into therapies.