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CLSA Inspire QuickFire Challenge

CLSA Inspire QuickFire Challenge for Diverse Innovators

Challenge ended

Grant funding from a total of up to $150,000

Medical Devices
Digital Health




Glyphic Biotechnologies

Glyphic Biotechnologies is a biotechnology startup that is developing a single-molecule, next-generation protein sequencing platform with applications in the development of personalized, precision cancer vaccines for patients of all backgrounds.



Nutrible is a virtual registered dietitian platform that serves a one-stop-shop in the fight against food deserts by providing nutrition education and delivering healthy food directly to patients who need it most.


MabSwitch, Inc

MabSwitch, Inc is a biotechnology company that aims to develop regulatable next generation immunotherapies based on a proprietary universal allosteric switch module for antibodies (UNASMA) technology platform to address diseases of significant unmet medical need.



Black, Hispanic, and Native American people are historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs.[1] Black people make up 11% of the U.S. workforce overall but represent 9% of STEM workers, while Hispanics comprise 16% of the U.S. workforce but only 7% of all STEM workers.[2] In 2016, 553 Native American students applied to medical school, yet only about a third of those applicants actually enrolled.[3] On top of this, from 2018-2019, Black founders received 1.7% of venture capital while Hispanic founders received 1.3%.[4]

The California Life Sciences (CLS) recently announced the creation of the Racial & Social Equity (RSE) Initiative, part of a multi-year program, funded by CLS member companies, which aims to help close the gaps in inequity and create a more diverse industry. The immediate focus of the RSE Initiative is to increase STEM opportunities for under-represented students; facilitate the hiring, development and advancement of under-represented talent; invest in diverse entrepreneurs and increase board member diversity; and provide underserved communities with equitable access to care.

California Life Sciences (CLS), the trade association representing California’s life sciences sector, together with Johnson & Johnson Innovation, AbbVie and 5AM Ventures is proud to launch the CLSA Inspire QuickFire Challenge for Diverse Innovators. This challenge offers an opportunity for California-based innovators* who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, or Pacific Islander to receive grant funding and mentorship to help advance their science or technology.

The innovator(s) with the best idea, technology, or potential solution that aims to improve human healthcare will receive up to $150,000 in grant funding and mentorship from CLS. The awardee will also be invited by CLSA to participate in the FAST Advisory Program, receiving commercialization advising from a tailored group of industry veterans.


Founders, Co-founders, Founding members, and CEOs

[1]Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering.” National Science Foundation, 2019. Accessed March 2021.

[2]Diversity in the STEM workforce varies widely across jobs.” Pew Research Social Trends, 2018. Accessed March 2021.

[3]More Native American Doctors Needed to Reduce Health Disparities in Their Communities.” AAMC, 2016. Accessed March 2021.

[4]Diversity in U.S. Startups.” Diversity VC & RateMyInvestor, 2020. Accessed March, 2021.


Grant funding from a total of up to $150,000 from CLS
  • Mentorship, including business advising for one awardee from industry veterans through CLS's FAST program

Areas of Interest

We encourage California-based innovators to submit potentially ground-breaking ideas in all aspects of  healthcare, including a particular interest in the following areas: 

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Biotechnology
  • Non-Human/Synthetic Biopharmaceutical
  • Med Tech/Med Device
  • Digital Health

Application process

Potential solutions will be evaluated by a panel of reviewers and judges on their ability to meet the following criteria:

  • Uniqueness of the idea
  • Potential impact on human health, with a specific focus on inclusive innovations
  • Feasibility of the idea
  • Thoroughness of approach
  • Identification of key resources and a plan to further the idea

Why this challenge matters to us

We believe our leadership, our teams, our innovations, and our investments must reflect the diverse populations we are meant to serve. We remain committed to help create a more diverse healthcare industry whereby every person can bring their unique experiences and backgrounds to the table to spark solutions for a better, healthier world.


How is a diverse innovator defined in this challenge?

We are specifically interested in diverse innovators shaping potential health care solutions as Founders, Co-founders, Founding members, or CEOs.

What does California-based mean?

Company must have a physical presence in California

What if I’m having trouble accessing the portal/website?

Make sure your browser is up to date and accepting cookies. You can contact customer service at [email protected] if you are having technical difficulties as well.

Can I submit supporting documents (for example a video) as part of my application?

You will have the opportunity and are encouraged to upload supporting materials such as slide decks, research papers, and videos as part of your application. You may submit a video along with your typed responses. Maximum length is 2 minutes.

Is it ok if some of the information I submit is confidential?

Do not submit confidential information. Only non-confidential information should be submitted and anything you submit will be treated as non-confidential.

What happens with IP (Intellectual Property)?

As this is a no strings attached arrangement, JLABS does not acquire any IP.  Any IP creation and/or protection remains the sole responsibility of the inventors.

Is a patent required to apply?

No, a patent is not required to apply.  However, you should not submit any information that you wish to keep confidential or that may negatively impact upon the future patentability of your invention.

What kind of science / technology is appropriate for the Challenges?

We encourage all to apply. Find out more about what areas we desire to explore here: https://www.jnjinnovation.com/partnering

Who is eligible to apply?

Each Challenge has its own terms & conditions that can be found prior to filling out the application.

What are the specific criteria for application?

Potential solutions will be evaluated by a panel of reviewers and judges on their ability to meet the following criteria:

  • Potential impact to transform human health
  • Uniqueness of the idea
  • Feasibility of the idea
  • Thoroughness of approach
  • Identification of key resources and a plan to further the idea

Who can I contact if I have questions about the Challenge or the application process?

Please contact [email protected] with any questions.

Where do I apply? And do I have to complete the application in one sitting?

Go to https://jnjquickfire.secure-platform.com to learn more. From there you will be directed to set up an account.

Apply Now

Submit your idea today!

Don’t miss the deadline


April 14, 2021
Applications Open
July 30, 2021
Submission Deadline
November 4, 2021
Pantheon Award Announcement

About Johnson & Johnson Innovation 

Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC focuses on accelerating all stages of innovation worldwide and forming collaborations between entrepreneurs and Johnson & Johnson’s global healthcare businesses. Johnson & Johnson Innovation provides scientists, entrepreneurs and emerging companies with one-stop access to science and technology experts who can facilitate collaborations across the pharmaceutical, medical device and consumer companies of Johnson & Johnson. Under the Johnson & Johnson Innovation umbrella of businesses, we connect with innovators through our regional Innovation Centers; Johnson & Johnson Innovation JLABS; JJDC, Inc.; and our business development teams to create customized deals and novel collaborations that speed development of innovations to solve unmet needs in patients. JLABS provides the laboratories, expertise, education, tools and resources needed to help life science startups thrive, all with no strings attached. A Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center for Device Innovation at the Texas Medical Center (CDI @ TMC) has been established to accelerate the development of medical devices. For more information about Johnson & Johnson Innovation, please visit: www.jnjinnovation.com.


About Johnson & Johnson Innovation - JLABS

Johnson & Johnson InnovationJLABS (JLABS) is a global network of open innovation ecosystems, enabling and empowering innovators across a broad healthcare spectrum including pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer and health tech sectors to create and accelerate the delivery of life-saving, life-enhancing health and wellness solutions to patients around the world. JLABS achieves this by providing the optimal environment for emerging companies to catalyze growth and optimize their research and development by opening them to vital industry connections, delivering entrepreneurial programs and providing a capital-efficient, flexible platform where they can transform the scientific discoveries of today into the breakthrough healthcare solutions of tomorrow. At JLABS, we value great ideas and are passionate about removing obstacles to success to help innovators unleash the potential of their early scientific discoveries. JLABS is a no-strings-attached model, which means entrepreneurs are free to develop their science while holding on to their intellectual property. JLABS also produces campaigns to seek out the best science called QuickFire Challenges. For more information, visit jlabs.jnjinnovation.com or follow @JLABS. 


About California Life Sciences (CLS)

California Life Sciences Association (CLSA) is the state’s largest and most influential life sciences advocacy and business leadership organization. With offices in Sacramento, San Diego, South San Francisco, and Washington DC, CLSA works closely with industry, government, academia and others to shape public policy, improve access to innovative technologies and grow California’s life sciences economy. CLSA serves biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device and diagnostics companies, research universities and institutes, investors and service providers throughout the Golden State.  Visit CLSA at www.califesciences.org, and follow us on Twitter @CALifeSciences, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

The CLSA Inspire QuickFire Challenge is part of the CLSA Racial and Social Equity Initiative, a unified effort to do more for the under-served and under-represented, focusing on the most critical need to address the inequality for Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Pacific Islander populations in California. #WeCommitToChange.



 cls             RSEI


About AbbVie

AbbVie's mission is to discover and deliver innovative medicines that solve serious health issues today and address the medical challenges of tomorrow. We strive to have a remarkable impact on people's lives across several key therapeutic areas: immunology, oncology, neuroscience, eye care, virology, women's health and gastroenterology, in addition to products and services across its Allergan Aesthetics portfolio. For more information about AbbVie, please visit us at www.abbvie.com. Follow @abbvie on TwitterFacebookInstagramYouTube and LinkedIn.


About 5AM Ventures

Founded in 2002, 5AM actively invests in next-generation biotech companies. With approximately $1.5 billion raised since inception, 5AM has invested in 73 companies including Arvinas (NASDAQ: ARVN), Audentes Therapeutics (NASDAQ: BOLD), Crinetics Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CRNX), DVS Sciences (acquired by Fluidigm), Envoy Therapeutics (acquired by Takeda), Flexion Therapeutics (NASDAQ: FLXN), Homology Medicines (NASDAQ: FIXX), Ikaria (acquired by Mallinckrodt), Ilypsa (acquired by Amgen), Marcadia Biotech (acquired by Roche), Novira Therapeutics (acquired by J&J), Pearl Therapeutics (acquired by AstraZeneca) and Relypsa (acquired by Vifor Pharma). For more information, please visit www.5amventures.com.