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2021 AbbVie Innovation Midwest (AIM) Award

Inaugural program offering seed funding and a year of lab/office space to two Chicago-based biotechs.

Program overview

AbbVie Ventures is excited to launch the 2021 AbbVie Innovation Midwest (AIM) Award. For AbbVie, this is an investment to catalyze a thriving biotech ecosystem in our backyard.


Prizes and requirements

AbbVie will grant AIM awards for up to two early-stage biotech companies. The AIM Award includes the following:

  • Seed Funding from AbbVie Ventures
  • Opportunity for Residence in the Portal Innovations facility in Chicago’s Fulton Market


AbbVie Ventures is looking for early-stage biotech companies that fit the following criteria:

  • Focused on science / technology with potential to generate transformational therapies in areas that align strategically with AbbVie’s therapeutic areas of interest (listed below)
  • Developing therapeutic platform technologies, including gene therapy, novel cell therapy, gene editing, or novel drug-discovery or platform technologies
  • Exclusions: Diagnostics, Devices, Research Tools, and Healthcare Services/IT

Additional requirements:

  • Companies must have their principal place of business in the Chicagoland area or be willing to relocate
  • Companies must not have a significant partnership with another large biopharmaceutical company. However, current or prior recipients of similar awards sponsored by other pharmaceutical companies or lab spaces are eligible to apply
  • Companies must meet the following AbbVie funding award criteria:
    • Total equity funding raised must be less than $5M USD before receiving the AIM Award
    • Companies must not have sales revenue
    • Companies must be in the life sciences and have an impact on human health or therapeutic drug development
    • Companies must be financially and scientifically ready to move to a Chicago-based lab within six months of receiving the AIM award

How to apply

Please send your application to by 11:59pm ET on Friday, September 3rd, 2021.

Applicants may only submit one entry each.

Please include the following in your application email:

  • Name of company
  • Primary contact at company
  • Therapeutic area
  • One sentence summarizing the scientific basis of the program/technology/asset
  • Funding to date: please include total funding received to date as well as the funder(s) and funding amount(s)
  • A high-resolution company logo (if applicable)
  • Non-confidential slide deck:
    • Applicants must provide a non-confidential slide deck of no more than 10 slides that emphasize:
      • Your company’s mission statement
      • Scientific founders, management team & expertise
      • The science behind the technology or asset
      • The prioritized and potentially applicable indications
      • Unique scientific value-add: What differentiates your technology or therapeutic from other companies in the competitive landscape?
      • Relevant IP and publications that include data supporting your science
      • Mitigation of risk: What are the potential pitfalls and key challenges?
      • Anticipated benefits of securing an AIM award
      • Anticipated move-in date to Chicago-based lab space
      • Company roadmap for upcoming key milestones (including financing)
      • Growth / research plan during the AbbVie AIM one-year timeframe

Judging criteria and judges

AbbVie leaders who are qualified scientific experts in respective fields, including specialties in scientific and/or medical research and business, will review all submissions. The following criteria will form application judging criteria:

  • Fit relating to the research fields of oncology, immunology, neuroscience, eye care, or aesthetics. Judges will also consider novel target(s) identification, drug delivery, discovery technology platforms, and translational research and development
  • Quality of the scientific data, research plan and/or technology platform
  • Potential to successfully achieve research milestones and program development
  • Unmet need for the research in the relevent field. Is this research/program/technology addressing a critical medical need?
  • Readiness to move into a Chicago-based lab within six months of being selected for the award


Application submission deadline: September 3rd, 2021 at 11:59pm ET

Announcement of top 6 applications to move forward with final pitch: September 24th, 2021.

Final pitch and selection dates will be in mid-October. 


What is the AbbVie Innovation Midwest (AIM) Award?
The inaugural AIM Award presents a chance to receive seed funding from AbbVie Ventures and engage with AbbVie’s scientific and business executives.

Seed funding will vary depending on company area of focus, stage, technology and research plan, and will be subject to terms typical to seed rounds.

Each AIM Award recipient also gets the option to reside at Portal Innovations for one year. This option would include (1) 6-foot bench and the residency for one scientist for one (1) year. Residency will be in exchange for equity in the company equivalent to $42,000.

How do I know if I am eligible?
The AIM award may be awarded to either startup companies that are interested in joining the Portal community or current resident companies.

To be eligible to participate, the applicant must: (1) be an entity formed under the laws of the United States; (2) not have raised more than $5 million United States dollars in capital or have any sales revenue as of the time of application and the closing date for the contest; (3) submit a complete application; (4) represent and warrant that the applicant has read and agrees to abide by all requirements of these rules; and (5) not be affiliated with or employed by AbbVie or Portal Innovations including as an employee, contractor, officer or director of AbbVie or Portal Innovations and including as an immediate family member of AbbVie or Portal Innovations (including parents, spouses, children, siblings or any individual residing in the household of an AbbVie, officer or director (whether or not related)).

When will I be able to use my AIM award?
The top six proposals will be announced in September and semi-finalists will be invited for an in-person presentation at Portal.

Companies must be financially and scientifically ready to execute on the submitted research plan within six months of receiving the AIM Award.

Where can I find more details on AbbVie’s areas of focus for external innovation?
Please refer to our Corporate Strategy Organization’s brochure:

I have additional questions. Who should I contact?
Please email