Penn and Greater Philadelphia’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem & Resources

Opportunities abound in our region for entrepreneurs and startups

The Penn Center for Innovation is proud to be a part of the wider Philadelphia entrepreneurial ecosystem. Resources and programs available via partner organizations help PCI to further the innovations under development at Penn.


President Biden visits Penn Medicine
President Joe Biden tours the Abramson Cancer Center with Bruce Levine, Carl June, and Penn President Amy Gutmann. Photo by Penn Medicine

Penn Ecosystem

Besides the support available for entrepreneurial activities through PCI, PCIV and the Pennovation Center, there are a broad array of centers and programs across the University that can support faculty and student commercialization and entrepreneurial activities:

Pennovation Works

A distinctive blend of offices, labs, and production space developed by Penn to link the intellectual and entrepreneurial initiatives necessary for advancing knowledge and generating economic development.

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President’s Innovation Prize

The President’s Innovation Prize awards a graduating Penn senior, or a team of graduating seniors, $100,000 (plus a $50,000 living stipend per team member) to envision and implement an innovative, commercial venture that makes a positive difference in the world.

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Penn Health-Tech

Penn Health-Tech unites Penn’s interdisciplinary strengths in Medicine, Engineering, and beyond to create transformative technologies that address the world’s pressing health care needs. They have an annual call for medical device and health technology development projects.

Penn Health Tech

Center for Healthcare Innovation

The Center for Health Care Innovation (CHCI) facilitates the rapid, disciplined development, testing, and implementation of new strategies to reimagine health care delivery for dramatically better patient outcomes, value, and experience.

Center for Healthcare Innovation

Center for Innovation and Precision Dentistry

The Center for Innovation & Precision Dentistry (CiPD) is a vibrant community of experts in Penn Dental Medicine and Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences who leverage cutting-edge yet affordable approaches to:

  • Accelerate discovery and translation of new therapies, diagnostics and devices to address unmet needs in oral health
  • Train the next generation of leaders in dental, oral and craniofacial research and oral healthcare innovation

Along with Penn Dental Medicine and Penn Engineering & Applied Sciences, the CiPD core partners include Center for Clinical & Translational Research, Penn Health Tech, Institute for Biomedical Informatics, and the Penn Center for Innovation.

Center for Innovation and Precision Dentistry

Penn Wharton Startup Challenge

The Startup Challenge is a competition for Penn student-founded new ventures, culminating in the Startup Showcase, Venture Lab’s flagship event, where the very best Penn student entrepreneurs pitch to a live audience and alumni judges to show their startups are ready to become the next big thing!

Wharton Startup Challenge

Y-Prize Competition

The Y-Prize Competition challenges student teams to propose innovative applications for new technologies invented by University of Pennsylvania researchers. The winning team receives $10,000, which they may use towards commercializing the Penn-owned technology on which their proposal is based. 

Y-Prize Competition

Penn Nursing Innovation Accelerator

The Innovation Accelerator provides funding to assist Penn Nursing students and faculty with the creation and testing of early stage solutions to improve health and health care outcomes with a priority on populations of greatest need.

Nursing Innovation Accelerator

Penn Medicine Co-Investment Program

The Penn Medicine Co-Investment Program invests capital alongside institutional investors to fund faculty-driven cell therapy, gene therapy, mRNA, and connected health companies based here in Philadelphia.

The Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

Penn and the Milken Family Foundation have come together to be a joint catalyst for innovation in education, to help “create a space” for education entrepreneurs.  This is the first business plan competition to focus exclusively on educational ventures.  Business plans are awarded in a wide variety of categories, including Innovation in

  • Online Education;
  • Open Educational Resources;
  • Borderless (International) Education; and
  • Special Education and At-Risk Students.
Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

 Penn Medicine Clinical Research Website

The Office of Clinical Research has launched a new website designed to provide easy to access information about our clinical research enterprise to patients & families, investigators, clinical research professionals, and our community. Please visit the site and learn how we are driving collaborative and innovative research.

Penn Medicine Clinical Research Website
Metal Eating Robot: Penn Engineering Today

Amplify Philly

Amplify Philly brings together Philadelphia’s diverse business, culture, and tech communities into the international spotlight. Their goal is to attract the best talent, clients, and consumers to live, work, and play in Philadelphia. Since 2016, Amplify Philly has represented Philadelphia through exhibitions, concerts, panels, and other interactive activities.  PCI has partnered and supported Amplify Philly’s efforts to showcase Philadelphia has a tech hub during SXSW.

Greater Philadelphia Ecosystem

Beyond our Penn partners, PCI works with a number of organizations in Philadelphia and the region to help grow our startups and further commercialize early stage research:

PACT logo

Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies

PACT’s vision is to be the go-to resource for fast growing companies and a driver of entrepreneurship and innovation in the Philadelphia region. PCI is a supporter and Board Member of PACT and we work together to foster resources and relationships with Venture Capital investors and showcase startups through various programs and initiatives throughout the year.

Prominent and Growing Innovation Sectors

Cellicon Valley

In the past few years Penn has generated a substantial increase in cell and gene therapy research, commercialization and economic development activity for Greater Philadelphia. The branding concept,  ‘Cellicon Valley,’ was created to describe and further promote this fast growing sector.  Penn Medicine has long been an international leader in cell and gene therapy research and development due to luminary faculty researchers such as Carl June, Jim Wilson, Jean Bennett, Bruce Levine and others. 

Along with a new group of emerging faculty innovators Penn has catalyzed the following activity related to cell and gene therapy as of June 2020:

  • The FDA approval of 4 drug indications
  • The Emergency Use Authorization of two mRNA based vaccines
  • The launch of 15 major Industry Alliances in the cell and gene therapy space  that have generated over $750 million in sponsored research dollar support back to Penn.
  • More than 25 cell and gene therapy startups initiated out of Penn, with 15 occurring in the past two years (see chart below);
  • These companies have collectively raised nearly $1 billion in invested capital over the last two years;
  • Two of these companies have gone public (Cabaletta Bio and Passage Bio) and two have been acquired (Dimension Therapeutics and Spark Therapeutics)
  • Cell therapy, gene therapy, and gene editing companies now employ about 4,900 workers across the region. The sector can add as many as 11,274 jobs over the next decade. This is in addition to jobs existing or growing at academic and medical centers funded via government research grants or industry partnerships.  The city and region’s business and civic leadership have created several initiatives that include a focus on both business attraction and workforce training to support sector growth (see this article and this article)

 Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, and Albert Maguire, MD. Photo by Penn Medicine Communications
Penn Gene Therapy Program
Cell & Gene Therapy Startup Highlights:
  • G2 Bio companies co-founded by Jim Wilson and Tachi Yamada launched with $200m to fund startups developing potential next-generation gene therapy candidates and technology from Penn
  • Interius BioTherapeutics, Inc., a company focused on in vivo T-cell transduction technology, recently raised $76.3M. (Saar Gill)
  • Verismo Therapeutics (seed) is a privately held seed-stage company focused on bringing a new generation of CAR-T treatments to market using a Killer-Immunoglobulin-like Receptor (“KIR-CAR”).  Has raised $16M to date. (Michael Milone)
Significant biopharma R&D partnerships include:

Amicus Therapeutics: A major multi-year R&D collaboration with the Gene Therapy Program (Wilson) to pursue research and development of novel gene therapies for Pompe disease, Fabry disease, CDKL5 deficiency and one additional undisclosed rare metabolic disorder. Amicus also just announced the opening of a major new R&D facility a few blocks from Penn as a result of this new partnership. Total Award: $158.4 million

Biogen: A major multi-year collaborative alliance between Biogen and Penn Medicine faculty (Wilson and Bennett) focused on gene therapy and gene editing. Total Award: $108 million

Janssen: Another major multi-year collaborative alliance with GTP/Wilson. The partnership brings together J&J’s anti-Alzheimer’s antibodies and the university’s adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) in a bid to open up a new frontier in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Total Award: $51.5 million

BioNtech:  A major alliance with Penn Medicine to research and develop mRNA vaccines against various infectious diseases.  At Penn, the research will be conducted by Drew Weissman, MD, PhD (Medicine; Infectious Diseases) and his laboratory, as well as by other Penn investigators, including Gary H. Cohen, PhD, (Microbiology), and Harvey Friedman, MD, (Medicine; Infectious Diseases).

Cell & Gene Therapy Startups (that have raised $)
NameAcquisitionTotal Funding as of 5/21
Cabaletta Bio$162.8M includes IPO
Carisma Therapeutics $121.1M
Dimension. Therapeutics $152.3M$124.5M
Interius BioTherapeutics$77.92M
Limelight Bio$95M
Passage Bio$595.5M includes IPO & 2PO
Scout Bio$29.3M
Spark Therapeutics $4.8B$122.8M
Tmunity Therapeutics$220M
Verismo Therapeutics$16M

Cell and Gene Therapy Startups (25)
  • 4MVac
  • Aevitas Therapeutics, Inc.
  • Albamunity
  • Cabaletta Bio, Inc.
  • Carisma Therapeutics Inc.
  • Carousel Therapeutics
  • Cartio Therapeutics
  • Dimension Therapeutics
  • Evergreen Therapeutics, LLC
  • FA212
  • Interius BioTherapeutics, Inc.
  • Limelight Bio, Inc.
  • LuxFiat Therapeutics
  • Magnacarta Therapeutics
  • Opus Genetics
  • Passage Bio, Inc.
  • Ribogenics
  • Ribovate Therapeutics
  • Scout Bio Inc.
  • Spark Therapeutics, Inc.
  • StrongHolt
  • Surmount, Inc.
  • Teefib Biosciences, Inc.
  • Tmunity Therapeutics, Inc.
  • Verismo Therapeutics, Inc
Cell & Gene Therapy Alliances (15)
PartyTotal Awards
Amicus Therapeutics$158.4M
Audentes Therapeutics$6.4M
Biogen MA$108M
Cabaletta Bio (fka Tycho)$15.5M
Carisma Therapeutics (fka CARMA) / Dimension Therapeutics / Ultragenyx$3.7M
Pharmaceutical Inc.$20.6M
Incyte Corporation$11.2M
Janssen Pharmaceuticals$51.5M
Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy$51M
Passage Bio$99.8M
Precision Biosciences$20.5M
Scout Bio$5.3M
Tmunity Therapeutics$38.3M


Penn Engineering has contributed to the growth of Philadelphia’s robotics ecosystem through a number of startups that continue to start and grow locally.  Some company examples include:

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Exyn Drone
An Exyn Technologies quad-rotor robotic aircraft

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