Pillar ponies up for Petri, Boston's new accelerator for fledgling biotechs

Petri offers a 12-month program that includes at least $250,000 in seed funding, lab space and access to scientific and entrepreneurial advisers. (Pixabay)

Pillar, a Boston-based venture capital firm, is bankrolling a new accelerator for budding biotechs. Named Petri, the accelerator aims to serve a group left behind by life sciences- and health IT-focused VC firms—startups at the “frontier of biology and engineering.” 

Petri offers a 12-month program that includes at least $250,000 in seed funding, lab space and access to scientific and entrepreneurial rock stars including Insitro CEO Daphne Koller, Twist Bioscience CEO Emily Leproust and CRISPR pioneer George Church. 

Pillar noticed that most health IT firms were focused on “digital health companies and tech-enabled services companies, such as selling software to hospitals and insurers,” wrote Jamie Goldstein, who founded Pillar and co-founded Petri, in a blog post. 


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“Most (not all) life science firms had evolved towards a biopharma “company formation” model—meaning they were funding ideas for new drugs generated by their own teams and finding industry veterans to lead them,” he said. 

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“As a result, it appeared that neither group was particularly interested in spending time on projects at the nexus of bio and engineering." 

Goldstein teamed up with Brian Baynes, a partner at Flagship Pioneering and a serial founder of companies—whose resume includes Midori, Codon and Celexion—and Tony Kulesa, a Ph.D. graduate from MIT looking for something like Petri to help him turn his research into a business. 

“We are at this perfect point in time where the advances in biology can be made exponentially greater through engineering and applications of technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence. What’s been missing is a focused resource to help make that happen. That’s why we created Petri,” Kulesa told VentureBeat in an email. 

Petri is looking for 10 startups to make up its first cohort, the Boston Business Journal reported.

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