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Frequently Asked Questions

Science & Technology Accelerator FAQs

It is an initiative created by the American Heart Association to bring together scientific innovators with investors and clinical development experts who can quickly move revolutionary, potentially life-saving, advances to the market, where they can directly impact outcomes in line with the American Heart Association’s mission and its 2020 goals.  It was created in 2010 with a $1 million donation.

Heart disease and stroke are the  No. 1 and  No. 5 causes of death in the United States.  Someone has a coronary event every 25 seconds, and someone has a stroke every 40 seconds.  Inventors and Scientists are working to bring new treatments and innovations to market to fight heart disease & stroke, but early stage investments to support such development are rapidly declining.  These diseases bring with them a heavy financial burden.  By 2030, total costs are projected to reach nearly $1.3 trillion.  Many potentially life-saving innovations or treatments often fall into the so called, “Valley of Death” — the funding void between the early stages of research and the point when private sources of funding perceive the risk low enough and return high enough to propel such innovations to the market.  The Science & Technology Accelerator Program was created to bridge that gap by assisting with development, from lab validation through successful proof of concept, where innovations can be handed off to private funding sources to propel them the rest of the way to patients and healthcare providers, where they can generate a major positive impact on outcomes.

All investment money comes from donors whose gifts are designated specifically for the Science & Technology Accelerator. All revenue generated through the program is reinvested to propel more innovations to market. Thus, a single donation to this "evergreen" fund becomes a “gift that keeps on giving.” 

No.  Donations collected for the American Heart Association’s general operating budget will not fund the Science & Technology Accelerator, which is an independently operating subsidiary of the American heart Association. The Accelerator is funded solely by philanthropic gifts restricted to the program.

As of January 2016, no new proposals are being accepted for consideration.

Candidates for investment are gathered from many sources.  Innovations undergo screening by American Heart Association volunteer experts for their scientific and commercial potential.  Those innovations surviving screening are then subjected to full due diligence review and presented to the Science & Technology Accelerator Committee.  This committee, comprised of volunteer experts from multiple disciplines, then selects those innovations to receive investment funding.

The Science & Technology Accelerator Committee includes the following members:

The program is led by Ross M. Tonkens, M.D., a cardiologist with patient care, drug and device development, and venture capital experience, who serves as Director of the Science & Technology Accelerator Division.

Research funded by the American Heart Association through the traditional grant application process is conducted by early investigators in the basic science stage of research.  Innovations targeted by the Science & Technology Accelerator program are farther along in development, and show promise of commercial applications and significant, tangible patient impact.

No.  Any net gains will be reinvested into future innovations within the Science & Technology Accelerator Program with the goal of bringing more “game-changing” innovations to the market, where they can generate positive impact on outcomes.

Such decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis as the terms of each investment are determined.

The Science & Technology Accelerator has access to internationally recognized volunteer experts in cardiovascular disease and stroke, who thoroughly vet innovations under consideration on their potential to make a significant and tangible patient impact, as well as to volunteers with expertise in business, drug and device development, regulatory affairs, and international intellectual property laws, who provide assessment of patent rights, and the potential for regulatory approval, successful commercialization, and return of investment.  Through this process, the program can both minimize investment risk for itself, and, after successfully helping innovations achieve proof of concept, for potential investors willing to take over funding, as well.

We anticipate the average investment will require five to seven years before providing return of the original investment, although our initial innovation selected for funding will likely repay our investment within about three years.

A blood test developed by CytoVas, LLC to determine risk of a patient with no symptoms suffering a cardiovascular event by assessing blood vessel health, is the first innovation in which we have invested.

Anyone with the means and desire to donate to helping “game-changing” medical innovations reach market where they can significantly improve outcomes is welcome to donate to this “evergreen” investment fund, which is designed to recoup its investments for recycling in advancing additional innovations.  Therefore, a donation to the Science & Technology Accelerator truly becomes a “gift that keeps on giving.”  Donations of any size are welcome.

For more information, contact Selena Smith.

No.  Similar programs exist at other non-profit organizations.  For example, the Muscular Dystrophy Association has MDA Venture Philanthropy (MVP), the drug development arm of MDA’s translational research program. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) and Alzheimer’s Association also have accelerator programs designed to translate science into improvements in outcomes through identifying and investing in important innovations to propel them more quickly to market.

No.  The American Heart Association itself receives no part of any return on Accelerator investment.  In addition, the American Heart Association does not provide any financial support to the Science & Technology Accelerator, which is funded solely through the philanthropy of donors who earmark their gifts solely for use by the Science & Technology Accelerator. The Science & Technology Accelerator is an “evergreen fund,” though, so one of the criteria for an innovation to be considered for investment is that there must be a reasonable likelihood of recouping the original investment at some point, so that the capital can be recycled.  Any profit, however, will be plowed back into identifying and propelling even more game-changing innovations from the laboratory into clinical practice.

The program’s Director, as well as its extensive group of expert volunteers, bring to the table years of experience in venture capital investment, translational science, intellectual property law, drug and device development, and regulatory affairs, in addition to great breadth and depth of medical and scientific expertise.

The American Heart Association is doing both.  It continues to provide well over $100M per year in grants to advance basic science.  The Science & Technology Accelerator’s investments augment this effort by accelerating arrival in the market of the most promising innovations, where they can significantly improve outcomes in alignment with AHA’s mission and its 2020 goals.   Since the Science & Technology Accelerator accomplishes its duties without any direct financial support from the American Heart Association itself, none of its investments are made at the expense of AHA’s ongoing grants programs, but rather, in addition to them.

Yes. American Heart Association guidelines are based, and updated, on the latest scientific evidence.  It is possible the Science & Technology Accelerator many invest in accelerating to market an innovation that later becomes an American Heart Association guideline.  Our guideline decisions, though, are made completely independently of our investment decisions.
This is not new.  Prior research funded by the American Heart Association, some of it through donations from private industry, has resulted in major breakthroughs which have subsequently become part of our guidelines, such as CPR, pacemakers, and some drugs.  The fact that the Science & Technology Accelerator Program advances innovations by investment rather than by grants is immaterial, since its goal is to propel revolutionary innovations to market where they can markedly improve outcomes.  Indeed, if the Science & Technology Accelerator is successful, it is quite likely that some of the innovations in which it invests could end up as part of American Heart Association guidelines.

The investment does not go into the American Heart Association’s general operating fund.  The Science & Technology Accelerator investment is restricted to innovations selected after careful scientific, clinical, and financial due diligence. The investment is based on a company’s meeting agreed upon outcome-based performance objectives related to required for successful development of the innovation. The funds are then distributed in installments that coincide with the achievement of predefined, outcome-based milestones.