Catalyst Program

Catalyst Program; Translational Accelerator; Innovation

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 are Catalyst Awards that provide both industry advisor mentorship and seed funding to UCSF PIs with promising projects. The Catalyst Awards are focused on the development of therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices and digital health.



Catalyst Awards Internship Program provides an opportunity to learn about early translational research and the process of translating academic discoveries into products that benefit patients. Currently there are two tracks.  One track runs parallel to the Catalyst Awards Program and allows the interns to observe the events of the awards program, including participating in the application review process and learning from industry expert advisors during the pitch presentations and participating in the discussions between the UCSF researchers and industry experts during Catalyst consultations. The other track involves participating in putting together Target Product Profiles (TPPs) for Catalyst Awardees and having the opportunity to hear the feedback from the industry experts. In addition, all the interns will participate in small group discussions with Catalyst advisors on topics related to product development and careers in industry. The program will expose interns to the industry perspective in evaluating the potential of scientific discoveries to lead to products. The interns will develop appreciation for issues such as defining unmet needs, assessing commercialization potential and development feasibility for an early-stage idea, and defining key milestones on the development path. The program is of value to those interested in doing translational research, either in an academic or industry setting.

The Fall 2018 Application window has closed. Please check back in Spring 2019!

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 a 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 & prevelance 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


    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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  • Michael Lesh, MD

    Executive Director, Health Technology Innovation

    Michael D. Lesh, MD is a physician, scientist and entrepreneur. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Computer Science and Bioengineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before entering medical school at the University of...

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  • Roopa Ramamoorthi, PhD

    Associate Director

    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

    Program Coordinator

    Nathaniel 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...

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