Catalyst Program

Zebra fish study

Silicon Valley philanthropists are

supporting the University's science.

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Kunal Patel UCSF Innovation Fund

in support of the Catalyst Program

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The UCSF Catalyst Program and Foundation Ipsen recently hosted an interdisciplinary Rare Disease Symposium titled "Rare Disease Discovery: Innovations in Diagnostics and Therapeutics" 

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Catalyst Awardee Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD, designs and develops novel brain assessment and optimization tools to impact education, wellness, and medical practices. Adam’s team combined MRI and EEG to create the “Glass Brain” to record in real-time what is going on in someone’s brain while they interact with one of his technologies – such as those from the company he co-founded, Akili Interactive.

The Catalyst Program is UCSF’s translational accelerator focused on advancing UCSF discoveries with clinical impact and commercial potential. The Catalyst Program aims to foster academic and industry collaborations as well as enhance education in early translational research and entrepreneurship. 

Catalyst Awards


The centerpiece of the Catalyst Program is the Catalyst Awards, our program that provides both industry advisor mentorship and seed funding to UCSF Principal Investigators with promising projects. The Catalyst Awards are focused on the development of therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices, digital health, and bio-tools.



The UCSF Catalyst Awards Internship Program provides an opportunity to learn about translational research and the process of advancing academic discoveries along the translational path to commercialization and patient benefit. The internship runs parallel to the Catalyst Awards Program and allows the interns to participate in the activities of the Catalyst Awards Program, the review process, and the interactions between the academic researchers and industry experts mentoring the projects along their development.

The program will introduce the interns to entrepreneurship and the industry perspective in evaluating the potential of scientific discoveries to lead to products, including: defining the unmet medical needs being addressed; assessing commercialization potential; opportunity for intellectual property; development feasibility for early-stage ideas; and defining key milestones on the development path. The program is of value to those interested in engaging in translational research and innovation and entrepreneurship in both the academic and industry settings.

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The Catalyst Program Newsletter contains program highlights, success stories, funding resources, and upcoming events and opportunities. 

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Case Studies

Case-based teaching has been extensively used in business schools and offers an advantageous model for bridging the gap between concept and practice. To complement existing classroom training in entrepreneurship on campus, and to offer more flexible and modular learning opportunities to academic translational scientists, Catalyst Program has developed a series of case studies as a part of the online educational curriculum. We identify the best representative cases (many from UCSF) aligned to the core principles of startup business, and interview the founders of these startup companies, in particular the academic innovators. These cases highlight the challenges and real-world lessons learned from academic translational research to commercially viable products.

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Catalyst + Plus

The Catalyst Program expanded to Catalyst + Plus, a new addition that aims to provide additional support to past Catalyst projects with successful progress yet still seeking business advice and/or supplemental funding.

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The Catalyst Program has compiled a list of disease databases, incidence & prevalence figures, core facilities information, as well as other useful links to guide researchers and students through the translation of therapeutic, diagnostic, medical device, digital health, and biotool discoveries to clinical impact.

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What We Do

  • Translating Science/Commercialization
  • Translational Funding
  • Technology Development

Our Team

  • Charles Hart, PhD

    Executive Director

    Charles Hart is the director of the Catalyst program. From 2004 to 2017 he was at Threshold Pharmaceuticals and responsible for both in vitro and in vivo preclinical translational studies. He was also project leader for the global clinical development program for the hypoxia-targeted anticancer drug evofosfamide (TH-302), a partnership with Merck KGaA. Prior to joining Threshold, Charles was Senior Director of Biology at...

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  • Roopa Ramamoorthi, PhD

    Director - Catalyst Program and InVent Fund

    Roopa Ramamoorthi brings a diverse scientific background in drug development, bacteriology, biotechnology, and engineering. Prior to joining UCSF, Roopa was Associate Director Partnering and Scientific Affairs at BIO Ventures for Global Health, where her focus was putting together collaborations between academic, non profit and pharmaceutical organizations to accelerate the development of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for Neglected...

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  • Nathaniel Prorok, MHA

    Director - LaunchPad and Senior Program Manager - Catalyst

    Nate Prorok brings a diverse and wide ranging skill set and experience to the Catalyst Program team. After undergraduate studies in Physical Therapy and Athletic Training at Loyola Marymount...

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  • Sohela Shah

    Program Director Catalyst Program and InVent Fund

    Sohela serves as the program director for Catalyst Program and InVent Fund, within Innovation Ventures at UCSF. With a strong passion for advancing research projects and promoting technology patenting and commercialization, Sohela is dedicated to bridging the gap between groundbreaking innovations and real-world applications. Before joining Innovation Ventures, she held the position of founding product manager at The Production Board, a...

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