What SPARK does, how it works, and who participates

What is SPARK?

SPARK is a unique partnership between university and industry whose purpose is to provide the education and mentorship necessary to advance research discoveries from the bench to the bedside. SPARK provides access to specialized knowledge and technical expertise regarding drug and diagnostic development, dedicated core laboratory facilities, and sources of funding to support translational efforts.


Bridging the gap between bench and bedside is a challenging endeavor. There is an inherent risk that early-stage programs will fail during development, no matter how promising the science. Such nascent programs are unlikely to attract interest from industry until they have reached significant milestones, and very little funding is available from the NIH, foundations, or private enterprise for this critical transition.

Chemical and Systems Biology Professor Daria Mochly-Rosen founded the SPARK program in 2007 to provide a cost-effective model to generate proof of concept using industry standards. Building upon Stanford’s tradition of technological innovation and entrepreneurship, SPARK emphasizes new ways of thinking about bridging the gap between bench and bedside.

How SPARK Works

SPARK at Stanford includes graduate level courses about the drug development process as well as a program for “SPARK Scholars” which provides funding for their product proposals and mentoring for participants. Mentoring is provided by advisors with expertise in product development, clinical care, and business, preparing participants for careers that link investigation with important new therapies.

Product proposals are reviewed annually by an expert panel of faculty and industry advisors. The panel reviews new, unlicensed disclosures made to the University Office of Technology Licensing as well as proposals submitted from across the university. SPARK Scholars (AKA “SPARKees”) are funded for an average of two years and participate in weekly seminars with industry and academic experts.

Who Participates?


Stanford program gives discoveries a shot at commercialization.