Accelerator Course


Please note the 2024 Application Deadline has passed. The 2024 Course will begin April 2024.

The Epilepsy Foundation, in partnership with the Danny Did Foundation, are pleased to bring back our annual accelerator course. This six-week virtual course is designed for startup companies focused on improving the lives of people living with epilepsy. Each week for six weeks beginning in the spring of 2024, the Epilepsy Foundation will bring in featured experts in epilepsy and successful entrepreneurs. Each expert will provide participants selected for the program with multiple perspectives and considerations to commercialize a venture.

Deep dives into topics during the course may include:

  • Market strategy / Describing vision and mission
  • Regulatory strategy and IP considerations
  • Case studies from successful entrepreneurs in epilepsy
  • Finding funding partners / Building the advisory board
  • Perfecting the pitch

See previous syllabus here.

The goal of the course is to assess and enhance the business plan of your product, improve your pitch, and learn from guest speakers. Each part of the course aims to help your business improve its impact in the epilepsy space. From investment to start-up, each session provides insights that accelerate the growth of your company.

At the end of course, each team will pitch their venture to the Epilepsy Foundation's Professional Advisory Board (PAB) and the Epilepsy Foundation's network of Venture Firms.

To be eligible to apply for the course, you must:

  • Be developing a device, technology, or digital health tool designed for people with epilepsy.
  • Apply as a business entity. A university may partner with an existing company through licensing to commercialize the venture and applicant should list the company in application.
  • Must demonstrate in the application an ability to move the proposed plan to completion, showing how an investment can accelerate a step along the path to market.
  • Applicants must submit a model/prototype of proposed project (must include demonstration of some form of materialization - i.e. early sample, model or release of a product built for testing).
  • Entrepreneurs who have previously received Epilepsy Foundation funding through Shark Tank Competitions or New Therapy Commercialization Grants are encouraged to re-submit their ideas if substantial progress has been made.
  • Applicants may reside in any country so long as they are committed to attending all lectures.

Examples of ventures considered for the course:

  • A device or digital tool that detects or predicts seizures
  • A system that helps patients manage their treatment or their epilepsy (less invasive, less costly anti-epileptic drug measurement, for example)
  • Any other concept that could improve the lives of people with epilepsy potentially in the near future

Still have questions about the course for startups? Please reach out to us at [email protected]

About the Instructors

    Caitlin Grzeskowiak, PhD
    Senior Director of Research, Epilepsy Foundation
    Caitlin Grzeskowiak

    Dr. Grzeskowiak is the Senior Director of Research and Innovation at the Epilepsy Foundation. In this role, she leads EFA initiatives such as the Research Roundtable for Epilepsy, Epilepsy Digital Experience Navigator (EDEN), the biannual Epilepsy Foundation Pipeline Conference, Next Generation Clinician and Scientist fellowships. Dr. Grzeskowiak has been with the Epilepsy Foundation since 2020. Prior to joining the Epilepsy Foundation, she worked on civic science outreach programs and cross-discipline science policy initiatives at Research!America. Dr. Grzeskowiak completed her postdoctoral training at Stanford University School of Medicine and was selected to participate in the Stanford Ignite program, a certification through the Stanford Graduate School of Business that teaches innovators to formulate, develop, and commercialize their ideas. She earned her PhD in Molecular and Human Genetics from Baylor College of Medicine focusing on platform technology development for large, scale, high-throughput genetic screening.

    Tom Stanton
    President, Danny Did Foundation
    Tom Stanton

    Tom has more than 10 years of experience working with non-profits in various capacities, from volunteer work and mentoring, to public relations, events management and sitting on boards of directors. Tom has spent his career primarily working in the communications field, including several years as a spokesman for former Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine. He has earned excellent standing among Chicago and national media outlets through his work as a media relations professional for various private and public sector organizations. He has also served as a spokesperson during the winning political campaigns of several elected public servants, including Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and former Congressman Rahm Emanuel. He began his career as staff writer for a national magazine. 

    The mission of the Danny Did Foundation is to advance public awareness of epilepsy and the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), to protect people with epilepsy, and to prevent deaths caused by seizures and create a reality in which healthcare providers proactively communicate with patients and caregivers about the risk of SUDEP and other forms of mortality associated with epilepsy. To elevate awareness of, and access to, technologies that enable early intervention and added safety when a seizure occurs.

    Sonya Dumanis, PhD
    Executive Vice President, Coalition for Aligning Science
    Sonya Dumanis

    Dr. Sonya Dumanis is the Executive Vice President of the Coalition for Aligning Science and Deputy Director of Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s, a flagship initiative under the Coalitions' management.

    Previously, Dr. Dumanis was the Vice President of Research and Innovation at the Epilepsy Foundation. While there, she oversaw the growth of the Epilepsy Therapy Project, an entrepreneurship incubator providing seed funding and mentorship to epilepsy startups, launched the Epilepsy Innovation Institute, an innovation incubator tackling high-risk projects in the epilepsy space, and supported early career research development through the Next Generation Programs. Prior to joining the Epilepsy Foundation in 2016, she worked at the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy, tasked with identifying key philanthropic opportunities poised to have a transformative impact on the state of research and developing research programs.

    "We are honored to have participated in Danny Did Foundation/EVF accelerator course. Through this course, we have been able to continue to grow our business and learn more about epilepsy patients and their unmet needs. We were also able to make connections with other fascinating startups and founders in the epilepsy space and learn from their experiences. We really enjoyed our time in the course and learned a lot from it." – Jay Shah, Neurava

    "The accelerate course was a unique opportunity to learn from experts and entrepreneurs how to communicate, how to forward opportunities that change the life of patients living with epilepsy. – Henrik Kliitgard, NEUmiRNA"

    "The accelerator program helped us to tell the company story stronger in the eyes of the patient, clinician and advocacy groups. It made us rethink what we are doing, and how to drive to the market, and which products to drive to the market. You never get enough chances to pitch, especially to a friendly audience of people directly involved in epilepsy whether as a patient or caregiver, with amazing feedback. Being able to step back, and having us rethink how to bring the right products to market with the right story was priceless." – Todd Wallach, Cognizance Biomarkers

    About This Partnership

    This course is a collaboration of the Epilepsy Foundation of America and the Danny Did Foundation. These partners share the goal to advance new treatments, tools, and resources for people with epilepsy as quickly as possible. A growing ecosystem is critical for the epilepsy technology space. The expertise and networking from this course is intended to advance startup companies who are poised to make a positive impact for people and families who cope with seizures. Learn more about how the Danny Did Foundation advances public awareness of epilepsy and Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP).


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