Nucleate Announces the Renewal of $4 million in Venture Prizes and the Nucleate Venture Fellows Program, in Partnership with Pillar VC and BlueYard Capital

4 min readDec 12, 2023

Nucleate, the non-profit organization dedicated to empowering the next generation of biotech leaders, announced renewed partnerships with venture capital firms Pillar VC and BlueYard Capital today. These partnerships enable Nucleate to award up to $4 million worth of Venture Prizes across its US and European Activator cohorts and support the running of the Nucleate Venture Fellowship program.

The 2022–2023 cycle marked the start of Nucleate’s global expansion with Activator programs in the United Kingdom and Switzerland, as well as Associate Chapters in a number of European countries and across the globe. This year, Nucleate added activator programs in Florida, Germany, Denmark, and Israel. The partnerships with Pillar and BlueYard — now in their 3rd and 2nd years respectively — enable Nucleate to provide Activator teams with direct access to capital internationally on the same founder-friendly terms via its Venture Fellows program.

The Nucleate Venture Fellows program is a 16-week fellowship for highly motivated trainees in the life sciences, culminating in the selection of the 2024 Nucleate Venture Prize winners. Five Venture Fellows will perform due diligence on Teams from Nucleate’s equity-free Activator program, write investment memos, and make their recommendations to the Venture Prize Investment Committee.

“We created the Nucleate Venture Fellowship as a training programme with real stakes for academic trainees with VC aspirations,” said Michael Retchin, Co-President of Nucleate. “We are grateful for our partners, who support this enormous opportunity for next-generation venture talent.”

“Having participated in the Venture Fellows program in 2023, I realize what a unique career opportunity it presents: a chance to influence scientific investment decisions significantly. Interacting directly with founders, shaping opinions, and actively contributing to investment committees defined this exceptional experience,” said Maja Wojtynska, Director at Nucleate UK and leader of the Venture Fellows programme in 2024. “This year, we are looking to recruit a team of trainees in the life sciences or medicine driven by the ambition to identify the next great ideas in biotech.” Prospective applicants should apply at Applications will be reviewed/accepted on a rolling basis until January 1st.

The Venture Prizes are SAFE notes (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 award recipients to receive funding from a pool of up to $4 million.

“The uncapped SAFEs that we offer through our partnerships with Pillar and BlueYard set Nucleate apart in our support of founder-led biotech companies,” said James Bayne, Co-Founder of Nucleate UK. “2024 will see us build on last year’s momentum to help form a new generation of ventures.”

“Solving humanity’s greatest challenges over the next century will require a new generation of companies at the frontier of science and technology,” said Jason Whitmire, Co-Founder and General Partner at BlueYard. “We are excited to work with Nucleate in unlocking the potential of life science founders in Europe to build these companies.” “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.

The 2023 Activator season saw Nucleate award 2.65 million dollars in the form of SAFE funding to its teams. “We are thrilled to have offered 15 teams across the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany funding in the 2023 Activator”, said Samantha Sison, Co-President of Nucleate. “This investment often represents the first source of funding for our teams — key to establishing IP, running proof of concept experiments, and preparing for their seed round raise. Of last years’ teams, 3 have already raised seed rounds, and we look forward to seeing their continued growth.”

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

About BlueYard
BlueYard backs founders at the earliest stages building the interconnected elements that can become the fabric of our future. A future where markets are open and decentralized, where we have solved our largest planetary challenges, where knowledge and data are liberated, and humanity can live long and prosper.