An Interdisciplinary Training Program in Entrepreneurship and Translational Research for Alzheimer’s Disease and AD Related Disorders

Program Overview 

I2SEED is an entrepreneurship focused education program which provides training to help develop and commercialize diagnostic, supportive or therapeutic interventions for Alzheimer’s Disease and AD Related Disorders (ADRD). 

Participants who complete this program will gain the skills necessary to successfully submit a highly competitive NIA SBIR or STTR grant. We also offer sustained engagement and support to assist with a resubmission, if necessary. The ultimate goal of this program is to maximize the likelihood that participants will be able to obtain seed funding through a combination of SBIR/STTR grant(s) and investor funding so that trainees can successfully transition to a funded career path that focuses on moving ADRD research from the bench to the bedside via a successful business plan.

This program is designed for pre- and post-doctoral trainees interested in exploring opportunities to commercialize ADRD diagnostics/therapeutics/devices

  • Pre-doctoral trainees must be enrolled in a Master's level or higher degree program
  • Post-doctoral trainees must have completed a PhD, MD, DDS, or comparable doctoral degree from an accredited domestic or foreign academic institution

Five to ten trainees will be enrolled in the program each year and expected to participate in the program for two years (approximately 2-8 hours per week). This program is funded by the NIA and available at no cost to trainees.

  • Targeted education on biomedical entrepreneurship in a small group setting
  • Networking opportunities
  • Experiential learning with start-ups and commercial ventures
  • Long term mentorship
  • Travel funds for relevant conferences
  • STTR/SBIR grant writing assistance
  • Assistance developing and refining an investor pitch deck


This curriculum was designed to ensure that the projects designed and implemented by trainees take into account the myriad of factors relevant to the complex characteristics of biomedical entrepreneurship and important considerations of developing preclinical and late-phase ADRD trials. The core curriculum will include the following elements:

Didactics will begin as Topic Overview Sessions. These will consist of mini interactive overviews of the core domains of:

  1. Ideation
  2. Intellectual property and regulation
  3. Finance
  4. Team building and scientific cooperation 
  5. ADRD Specific Topics

Each session will be approximately 30-45 min in length. Topic Overview Sessions will occur via video conference and be scheduled based on trainees availability. At the conclusion of each lecture trainees will be asked to rate their interest in each topic covered, this rating will be used to design the boot camp curriculum.

The diverse curriculum will also ensure that trainees are exposed to a broad range of skill sets required for ADRD biologic and therapeutic development through entrepreneurial and commercialization pathways.

The Bootcamp for the 2023-2024 class will be held: September - October 2023

After the Topic Overview Sessions, we will hold mini boot camp sessions on each topic.

The bootcamp is intended as an intensive introduction to more complex concepts related to entrepreneurship, product development, commercialization, and the unique demands of developing novel ADRD-related technologies and therapeutics. The feedback from Topic Information Sessions will be used to design a boot camp curriculum that is valuable to trainees. We anticipate 2-8 hours of lectures per week, interspersed with team-building activities such as social events, and networking opportunities to engage with other faculty.

Once the bootcamp is completed we will transition to focus on SBIR/STTR grant writing. Workshops will be hosted by Dr. Gooneratne via videoconference. These grant workshops will be held weekly and may occur more frequently when the group approaches grant submission deadlines.

Workshops will guide trainees through the complex process of preparing and submitting a SBIR/STTR grant and will include:

  • Instruction on required SBIR/STTR components: i.e., NIH biosketch, specific aims, research strategy, resources and human subjects; and key elements necessary for ADRD research
  • Review and discussion of successful ADRD SBIR/STTR applications
  • Guided writing/timeline: trainees will first prepare their Specific Aims, to be discussed by all trainees and faculty in the workshop.
  • Continuous Feedback: trainees will present their writing progress to faculty once per month; including a discussion of timeline, milestones, and progress to further refine project/grant.
  • Mock Review: approximately 4 weeks before submission trainees will submit for a mock study section by mentors and other trainees that will provide insight into grant review process and allow for further refinement of grant
  • Sustained engagement in the following year of the program to assist with the SBIR/STTR A1 grant resubmission, if necessary

Approximately once every two months, we will invite guest lecturers to present at a State-of-the-Art Research seminar on ADRD. Trainees will hear from the brightest minds in the field from across multiple institutions who will be presenting on recent developments in the three core areas of disease biology, data sciences and drug discovery related to ADRD.

These talks will include discussions of novel neuroimaging methods, data analytic tools, animal models, and other recent developments to ensure that trainees are exposed to cutting edge research that may impact their application.

This seminar will also serve as a helpful networking opportunity for the trainees to connect with top researchers in the field.

Fundamental to this program is its innovative mentorship framework that extends beyond a research mentor and business mentor to include a clinical mentor with experience in ADRD to provide a unique perspective that is central to commercial success. Trainees will be encouraged to maintain prior connections as mentor candidates. The I2SEED program will also connect trainees to mentors with expertise in their area of interest. The curriculum includes regular meetings with the trainee and their mentors to provide feedback and track progress.

This will also include experiential learning opportunities such as clinical shadowing, industry externships and networking to facilitate patient and caregiver stakeholder interactions for the trainee as appropriate.  


Academic Entrepreneurship for Medical and Health Scientists eBook will serve as the content source for much of the didactic material. It is a free open-education resource, which was developed by Dr. Gooneratne and several other colleagues to fill a training gap in the commercialization of biomedical advances. 

The book can be accessed on pubpub here: https://academicentrepreneurship.pubpub.org/

Program Leadership

Program Director

Nalaka Gooneratne Bio

Dr. Gooneratne is an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the Associate Director for the Master's of Science in Translational Research at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a board-certified sleep disorders physician. His research includes a multi-site NIA intervention study on sleep apnea in Mild Cognitive Impairment and he has been the PI on two NIH Small Business Grants. 

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Co-Program Director

 Katie Reuther bio

Dr. Reuther is the Executive Director of the Penn Center for Health-Devices and Technology (Penn Health-Tech) and on the faculty of the School of Engineering and Applied Science as Practice Associate Professor in Bioengineering. She also has experience as a co-founder of Syntegrity Biomedical, an orthopedic medical device start-up.

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Apply Now

Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis so we encourage you to apply early for early consideration. 

  • Pre-doctoral applicants must be enrolled in a Master's level or higher graduate degree program and have at least a bachelor's degree
  • Post-doctoral applicants must have completed a PhD, MD, DDS, or comparable doctoral degree
  • Applicants must be from an accredited institution

Application Process

Applicants must submit a full application which contains two parts:

Consisting of an electronic application form and the following documents: 

  • Personal Information
  • CV/Biosketch 
  • Supplemental Questions

To gain access to the I2SEED online application and additional instructions please contact Jennifer Morris, MS, Education Program Director.  

Detailed information/instructions about the letter of support will be provided once interested applications complete the online application.

One-to-one application support is available! Just contact us to discuss your potential application or with any questions about the program 

Contact Administration



For questions related to the I2SEED Training Program, please contact Jennifer Morris.

Nalaka Gooneratne, MD, MSci | I2SEED Program Director | ngoonera@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Jennifer Morris, MS | I2SEED Program Education Director | jennifer.morris3@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

This program is supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging, grant R25AG078147. This content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging.