Nucleate Announces $2M in Venture Prizes and Nucleate Venture Fellows, in Partnership with Pillar VC

3 min readDec 16, 2022


Nucleate, the nonprofit organization led by academic trainees and dedicated to empowering future biotech leaders, announced the renewal of its Pillar Venture Prizes, totaling $2M to facilitate startup formation from its Activator program. The award is organized in partnership with the venture capital firm Pillar VC. Nucleate also announced the launch of its Venture Fellows program and the 2022 Pillar Funding Award winners.

The Nucleate Venture Fellows program is a 12-week fellowship for highly motivated trainees in the life sciences, culminating in the selection of the 2023 Pillar Venture Prize winners. Nucleate is recruiting five Venture Fellows to assist with the diligence and allocation of the Pillar Venture Prizes. Fellows receive foundational training in evaluating venture teams, preparing investment memos, and landscaping; they are subsequently responsible for conducting diligence, preparing investment memos, and contributing to Venture Prize decisions. Fellows are compensated with a stipend.

Prospective applicants should apply at
Applications will be reviewed / accepted on a rolling basis until Jan. 13.

“The Nucleate Venture Fellows program allows academic trainees to participate in something they almost never get a chance to do: write checks into breakthrough biotech companies,” said Oliver Dodd, Co-President of Nucleate and PhD candidate at Harvard Medical School. “We’re delighted to be able to offer this opportunity to the next generation of venture talent.”

Teams nominated for the Pillar Venture Prizes are selected from the current cohort of Nucleate’s Activator program. The Activator is a six-month, equity-free program built for academic biotech founders. It has supported 100+ venture teams that have gone on to raise over $179M in post-program funding for their companies.

The Pillar Venture Prizes offer direct funding opportunities to Activator teams as part of Nucleate’s arsenal of founder-friendly resources. The Prizes are SAFE agreements (simple agreement for future equity) without a valuation cap or discount, and founders can choose to defer for up to a year. This mechanism gives founders a simple way to get initial funding without valuing their company upfront; only at a later financing round will the funding convert to an equity investment. Nucleate will select several award recipients from a pool of up to $2 million.

“Pillar is delighted to renew our commitment to Nucleate, which shares our mission to elevate the community of biotech founders,” said Tony Kulesa, principal at Pillar. “This year, Nucleate awarded the Venture Prize to 7 outstanding venture teams working at the frontiers of fertility, synthetic biology, and therapeutics.”

The Nucleate Venture Fellows program is a unique opportunity to serve in a venture role with autonomy over the allocation of $2M in founder-friendly prizes. Prospective applicants should apply at Applications will be reviewed / accepted on a rolling basis until January 13.

Nucleate is proud to announce the Pillar Funding Award winners of the 2022 Activator cohort.

Acurasset Therapeutics. Small-molecule therapeutic for hepatitis B.
Cache DNA. The next generation of DNA-based storage and computing.
Gammunity. Memory CAR-Gamma delta T cells against solid tumors.
Osteologic. Bone-targeted therapeutics for novel systemic delivery.
Range Biotech. Multiplex protein quantification using DNA sequencing.
Vitra Labs. Stem cell induction approach to revolutionize in vitro fertilization.
Wild Microbes. Non-model microbes to improve bioproduction.

About Nucleate

Nucleate is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the next generation of biotech leaders. With chapters spanning 23 geographic regions and participation from over 120 academic institutions, Nucleate sparks new intellectual communities and embeds emerging talent within a global biotech community. Through open-access educational programming, Nucleate helps democratize biotech innovation — removing barriers and helping founders concentrate on building transformational technologies. Visit for more information.

About Pillar VC

Pillar VC is a seed-stage venture firm in Boston co-founded by 22 CEOs, including the leaders of Ginkgo Bioworks, Iora Health, Cytyc, DraftKings, and Wayfair. The firm’s investments include PillPack, Desktop Metal, Kuebix, Algorand, Asimov, and PathAI, among others. Pillar believes that the strongest relationships start from a position of trust, and that VC doesn’t have to be the dark side. The firm aligns with founders by providing resources and support, and by offering to buy common stock — the very same type of stock founders own. To find out more about Pillar VC please visit: