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BrightEdge convenes investors, entrepreneurs, and researchers

Second annual summit attendees left informed and inspired to build a brighter future.

On Nov. 7 and 8, more than 130 thought leaders came together in Cambridge, MA, for the second annual BrightEdge Summit on Impact Investing in Cancer. Bringing together scientists, philanthropists, academics, and thought leaders from across the cancer ecosystem, the event focused on leveraging the power of impact investing and innovation to accelerate our mission of ending cancer as we know it, for everyone. 

The summit consisted of three components:

  • Impact Showcase, which looked at deepening cancer impact through novel scientific innovations and business models
  • Cancer Impact ESG-Investing Think Tank, which highlighted the role and opportunity of impact investing, and
  • Advancing Diversity and Health Equity Programs, which examined those topics in relation to cancer care and included additional steps that can be taken to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer.  

Thank you to the BrightEdge, Marcom, and Development Principal Philanthropy teams for their work organizing and promoting this important event! ACS Executive Team members who participated and/or spoke, included Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Bill Dahut, Chief Patient Officer Dr. Arif Kamal, ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse, Chief Finance and Strategy Officer Kael Reicin, and Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Tawana Thomas Johnson. Chief Executive Officer Dr. Karen Knudsen offered a video message for summit attendees echoing the importance of leveraging BrightEdge’s position and strength as ACS’ innovation and impact investment arm. ACS Board members Brian Marlow, Dr. Asif Dhar, Dr. Mark Goldberg, Dr. Ed Liu, and Ken Stoll were also in attendance.

Managing Director for BrightEdge Alice Pomponio shared the importance of this convening this dynamic community, saying, “BrightEdge is a differentiated investor because of its ability to combine financial and intellectual capital from the American Cancer Society and our Founders Circle to drive intentional cancer impact through our integrated model. Convening our diverse ACS BrightEdge ecosystem helps us raise awareness and adoption of our mission priority investment areas, identify top startups at the earliest stages, standardize impact measurement and reporting through Cancer Impact Investment Framework, and accelerate and deliver ACS mission through novel business models. This is how we work together to build the impact marketplace and economy."

This year’s summit would not have been possible without the support of amazing and generous sponsors who were recognized at the Founders Circle & Friends Sponsor Dinner. Thank you to Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Apex Group Ltd, WuXi AppTec, Innovatus Capital Partners, Third Rock Ventures, a16z Bio + Health, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, and Real Chemistry for believing in the ACS BrightEdge mission. In addition, two Founders Circle members (individual donors who have gifted more than $500,000 to BrightEdge), Dr. Steve Klasko, and PDB Foundation participated in the Annual Summit. Together, with our growing base of support, we are fighting for a world without cancer. 

BrightEdge is the innovation, impact investment, and venture capital arm of the ACS with a vision to defeat cancer and advance health equity for all communities through patient-centric innovation and intentional, mission-aligned investing in for profit, cancer-focused startup companies. BrightEdge leverages ACS’ unparalleled knowledge base to catalyze impact innovation in areas of greatest need and build a more sustainable health future. Discover more on the BrightEdge website and keep up with everything happening on LinkedIn.

  • Mackenzie Porter & Friends presented Country vs. Cancer Nov. 20

    Country music fans can attend the live show or watch online.

    Country music star and American Cancer Society ambassador Mackenzie Porter is headlining Country vs. Cancer at Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville, TN, on Monday, Nov. 20. She’s also bringing her friends Dustin Lynch, Nate Smith, Walker Haynes, Lily Rose, and Alana Springsteen along with her for a night to remember.

    All proceeds from the concert will benefit ACS, and the event will also celebrate patients, survivors, and caregivers. Get tickets at Ticketmaster now, and share this opportunity with your friends who love country music through your social networks.

    For those who do not live close enough to travel to Nashville and attend live, create an account at Fans.Live to livestream the show beginning at 8:00 p.m. CT.

    Read on how a history of cancer runs thick in MacKenzie's family. 

  • ACS BrightEdge receives $5.25M from Lyda Hill Philanthropies

    Gift will establish oncology startup accelerator in Texas to expedite cancer research breakthroughs.

    BrightEdge LLC, the American Cancer Society’s venture capital and impact investment arm, received its largest donation to date from Dallas-based Lyda Hill Philanthropies to establish the ACS BrightEdge Texas Acceleratora two-year pilot innovation acceleration program hub. The $5.25 million gift will allow for the funding of translational research grants and early-stage equity investments in emerging oncology start-up companies. The news was announced Oct. 30, and CEO Dr. Karen Knudsen shared her thoughts via X (formerly Twitter.)

     “We are excited to launch this first-of-its-kind program with Lyda Hill Philanthropies,” said Alice Pomponio, vice president of innovation and impact investing and managing director of BrightEdge. “This transformational gift establishes our first regional accelerator designed to bring innovative ideas to market faster. By leveraging vibrant cancer research funding across public and nonprofit sectors, we hope to deepen patient-centric impact and drive towards a future where discovery conquers cancer.”

    The accelerator will address several key obstacles that hinder the advancement of impactful cancer breakthroughs: lack of early-stage capital, talent development and mentorship. This program will empower high-impact potential start-ups by providing milestone-driven, proof-of-concept grant funding that validates and de-risks technologies and pre-seed investments in early-stage companies. The program will also create a network of ACS-affiliated advisors and partners for deal-sourcing, due diligence and portfolio company support.

    "We are committed to investing in organizations making game-changing and transformational advances in science,” Lyda Hill, entrepreneur and founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. “This gift represents not only our dedication to eradicating cancer but also our belief in the potential for sustainable, impactful solutions. Through strategic investments, we aim to catalyze innovations that will not only save lives today but also shape a healthier, more equitable world for generations to come."

    The first ACS BrightEdge Accelerator will be strategically located in Texas which is home to multiple top cancer research institutions and facilities, receives strong federal and state support, has an active investment and corporate community and a robust pool of technical and business talent. Additionally, ACS has granted $300 million to support Texas-based researchers. However, additional gap funding is needed to advance cancer-fighting technologies and bring these innovations to market. The accelerator program will fill this need and serve as a model for additional ACS accelerators in other areas, which will support cancer researchers from coast to coast in translating their discoveries into impactful solutions for patients.

    This program is one way that BrightEdge, founded in 2019 by the nation’s leading cancer-fighting organization, works to catalyze market activity in areas of high impact and unmet needs while also creating a sustainable stream of alternative income for ACS. BrightEdge invests in for-profit, early-stage companies developing cancer-focused therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and technologies. In addition to these traditional venture capital activities, BrightEdge intentionally selects investments that help to further ACS’s mission-driven priorities: causes of cancer, healthy lifestyle and prevention, screening and diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and health equity.

    *Photo above is used for illustrative purposes only.

  • Third annual Making Strides On the Go is back Oct. 28

    Walk where you are from anywhere in the country. 

    If you found yourself tied up on the day of your local Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, have no fear – Making Strides On the Go is here! Mark your calendar and tune in to Strides On the Go on Saturday, Oct. 28, with just a click of a button.

    Strides On the Go is a live, interactive, digital experience that allows supporters, survivors, and thrivers, to safely enjoy a unique “walk where you are” experience from the comfort of their own neighborhood! Available through a one-click link, this fun, high-energy program includes live hosts, great music, and the ability to celebrate, chat, and share selfies and shout-outs with Striders from across the country in real time. 

    Be a part of the Making Strides movement from anywhere in the country on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 11 a.m. ET, by simply joining at

  • ACS welcomes a flurry of activities to kick off October

    Go Mode, #WeDriveFor, and Discovering the Future!

    Throughout the month of October each year, the American Cancer Society inspires millions across the nation to join the movement, take action and increase awareness. Currently there are several ways to engage friends, family, and communities in our efforts to end breast cancer as we know it, for everyone. Here are just a few opportunities to show your support, celebrate the work we do and amplify the impact of ACS throughout the month.

    Making Strides Against Breast Cancer: It’s Go Mode Time!

    We kicked off the Making Strides season last weekend with a handful of events, including our longest running event in Boston, but there’s still time to visit your local event, sign up to participate, or make a donation. If you are unable to join your local community this year, take part in Making Strides On the Go this Oct. 28. Making Strides On the Go is a live, interactive opportunity that allows supporters and survivors and thrivers to enjoy an interactive “walk where you are” Making Strides experience from the comfort of their own neighborhood -- including music, live programming and the ability to chat and share selfies with Striders from across the country in real time. 

    Chevrolet #WeDriveFor campaign: Post away now through Oct. 31

    We’re hitting the road to raise funds, spread awareness, and drive change in the movement to end breast cancer. This October, for each post, share or reshare with #WeDriveFor on X, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, Chevrolet will contribute $5 (up to $170,000) to ACS. Yes, that’s right – Facebook is now an option for the #WeDriveFor campaign! 

    Tips for success: 

    • Use #WeDriveFor on social feeds to share what you drive for. Each post with #WeDriveFor raises $5 for the American Cancer Society! 
    • Share #WeDriveFor posts in-feed, via Instagram stories, reposts & retweets. 
    • Add #WeDriveFor on your share and help raise more funds! Follow Chevrolet or American Cancer Society social channels for #WeDriveFor messages to share. 
    • Add #WeDriveFor to help amplify! Use #WeDriveFor throughout October to help raise funds for breast cancer research & patient support programs.

    Discovering the Future: Don’t miss this inspiring conversation on October 11

    Next Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 1 p.m. ET, all ACS team members and supporters are invited to join Discovering the Future, a virtual conversation series that will feature ACS funded researcher Dr. Tiffany Rios-Fuller and breast cancer survivor and team leader Laura Renegar. This live event will highlight how donor dollars are making an impact and saving lives today, while changing the future of breast cancer breakthroughs. No preregistration is required; just click to join

  • Joe Gillette inducted to Relay For Life Hall of Fame

    Founder of Relay First Lap celebrated for his lasting impact.

    On Saturday, September 30 one of the American Cancer Society’s most passionate and innovative supporters was celebrated by the entire Relay For Life community. In a surprise ceremony, longtime volunteer Joe Gillette was inducted into the Relay For Life Hall of Fame, a select group of Relay volunteers and team members that have made a significant, lasting impact on the program. Joe, the 2021 National Volunteer Leadership Award winner, is the first inductee in seven years and was presented the honor by current Hall of Fame members Laura McCormick and Jeff Ross. Also, in attendance during Saturday’s ceremony was Chief of Organizational Advancement Mike Neal, and Bryan Sherwood, senior director, Relay For Life, along with Joe’s wife Debbie, and several of his daughters.

    Pictured above, during the ceremony at the TWA Hotel at New York's JFK Airport, from left to right, are Austin DeSavino, director, Development; Paul Woldar, senior development manager; Mike Neal, chief of Organizational Advancement; Steve Bell, volunteer, former National Relay For Life lead; Debbie Gillette (Joe's wife); Laura McCormick, Hall of Fame member; Bryan Sherwood, senior director, Relay For Life; Jeff Ross, Hall of Fame member; Mark Flynn, volunteer and son of Pat Flynn (Hall of Fame member).

    “Just seeing everyone here today – it's a little bit of what ACS has become to me. It’s Relay, it’s Strides, it’s Men Wear Pink, Determination, all the little facets – all in one place, and it’s overwhelming," said Joe, pictured at right. "You know, when you go through what I went through, you look for those things that get you through to the next month. At first, it was my daughter’s wedding, then it was getting home, and then it was this [event]. To have this come together and be my first step back into business again, is really overwhelming.” Joe added, “I am truly grateful for everything all of you have meant to me, and what ACS has meant to me, it’s really been amazing."

    Joe began his involvement with ACS in 2010  through the Relay For Life of Brooklyn, and he quickly positioned himself as a national leader. A social media enthusiast, Joe continually generates innovative ideas to make Relay more meaningful, and he brings them to life by rallying volunteers across the globe. In fact, it was Joe’s inspiration that brought the American Cancer Society’s Relay First Lap to fruition.

    Thanks to Joe’s vision, the first Saturday of the year is now Relay First Lap – a day when Relay For Life enthusiasts gather their teams to take the first lap of the new year together, while encouraging new participants to sign up online and start their fundraising efforts. Joe also launched an annual Relay For Life fundraising calendar to support team efforts. This unique calendar engages members of the Relay community with fun, creative themes each year. Not only does Joe serve as a mentor to others, but he quite literally puts his money where his mouth is, having achieved nearly $500,000 in personal fundraising to date across a variety of ACS programs and events.

    As an active member of the Greater New York City Board of Advisors for the American Cancer Society, Joe brings his passion for fundraising to all aspects of the organization’s mission, including raising funds and awareness for key patient support programs and services, such as free lodging and transportation for people facing cancer. After being diagnosed with cancer himself, Joe’s family and Relay friends rallied globally to support and encourage him along his journey.

    Please join us in congratulating Joe on his induction into the Relay Hall of Fame by posting a message of support in the Relay For Life Community on Facebook!

  • Crucial Catch season brings new grants, resources, opportunities

    The Defender presented by Sleep Number delivers tips and local resources.

    Since 2009, the National Football League (NFL) and the American Cancer Society have partnered to fight cancer and save lives through Crucial Catch. Along with educating the public about the importance of prevention and early detection, the initiative raises funds to help community health centers and health systems in under-resourced areas increase access to cancer screening.

    This year, to specifically improve breast cancer outcomes, the NFL and American Cancer Society added a new Links to Care Community Grants pilot project in select NFL markets. The pilot project aims to create connections between community health centers and NFL team affiliated hospitals to ensure patients complete recommended screening, follow up care and treatment.

    Crucial Catch funding has contributed to over 650,000 screenings and reached more than 1.2 million individuals. Crucial Catch promotes the connection between overall wellness and cancer prevention through providing local cancer screening resources via The Defender presented by Sleep Number

    This recently updated online resource allows you to assess your cancer risk, get prevention tips, and find local screening resources. Visit to get started.

    Additional Crucial Catch Activations

    Super Bowl Sweepstakes 

    Beginning Sept. 28, with a $10 or more donation to the American Cancer Society, fans have the chance to enter to win a Super Bowl LVIII VIP experience, a meet & greet with Alyssa Milano and other exclusive perks through the Super Bowl LVIII Sweepstakes. Donations will help provide cancer screening resources in underserved communities through the NFL’s Crucial Catch initiative. To enter, visit

    100 Miles to Intercept Cancer 

    This season NFL fans will also have the opportunity to join American Cancer Society ambassador and Detroit Lions rookie Brian Branch in raising funds for ACS. A series of Facebook ads will kick off in October, promoting the “100 Miles to Intercept Cancer with NFL Crucial Catch” challenge, where participants will “Train Like a Pro” through jogging, walking or running a total of 100 miles and share their fundraiser to raise money for ACS and the Crucial Catch initiative. Incentives and rewards are earned based on progress, including a meet and greet with Brian Branch for the challenge winner. The challenge kicks off on Oct. 1.

  • Kick up your heels with Country vs. Cancer

    MacKenzie Porter and friends to host concert in November to support ACS.

    This fall country music star Mackenzie Porter is teaming up with ACS again for the Country vs. Cancer concert. The evening of country music featuring Mackenzie and her friends on Monday, Nov. 20, at Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville, TN, will not only raise funds for ACS but also celebrate patients, survivors, caregivers, and people going through a cancer journey. 

    Tickets will go on sale Friday, Sept. 29. Watch for info coming soon and help by sharing social media posts, like Mackenzie's Instagram video

    Proud partner

    Mackenzie has become a terrific ambassador for ACS. This past June she performed a free concert at the American Cancer Society Memorial Foundation Hope Lodge in Nashville, plus a few lucky guests and caregivers received special access to the CMA Fest, pictured here.  

    Knowing her cancer risk is important to Mackenzie. She has shared the message of early detection with her fans, noting that she was recommended for several breast cancer screenings given her family’s connection to the disease.

  • ACS earns four-star rating from Charity Navigator

    Our organization’s overall rating improves to 99%.

    The American Cancer Society is proud to announce its strong financial health and ongoing accountability and transparency has earned a four-star rating from Charity Navigator – the highest ranking the organization gives. This rating designates ACS as an official “Give with Confidence” charity, indicating our organization is using its donations effectively based on Charity Navigator’s criteria. 

    Charity Navigator analyzes nonprofit performance based on four key indicators, referred to as “beacons.” Currently, nonprofits can earn scores for beacons focused on impact and results, accountability and finance, culture and community, and leadership adaptability.

    The addition of culture and community strongly aligns with our organizational and mission priorities and helped to increase the overall ranking. This includes our commitment and actions to address health equity, community impact, and diversity in the workplace. 

    Newest ACS rankings at a glance

    • Accountability and finance: 99/100

    This beacon evaluates a nonprofit organization's governance practices and financial health, including measures of accountability, transparency, efficiency, and sustainability.

    • Leadership and adaptability: 100/100

    This beacon evaluates the organization's leadership capacity, strategic planning, and ability to readily innovate or respond to the needs of staff and constituents served to better achieve the organization's mission. 

    • Culture and community: 96/100 (New this year)

    This beacon evaluates the organization's overall culture and commitment to fostering meaningful relationships within their organization and the communities they serve and includes the following assessments:

    1. Constituent feedback
    2. Equity strategies

    Note: The impact and results beacon evaluates nonprofit impact at the individual program level. Unfortunately, Charity Navigator does not have an algorithm to evaluate many health-related nonprofit services (except for direct financial assistance), therefore ACS does not currently have a score in this category.

    The ACS rating and other information about charitable giving are available free of charge on We are also proud to hold the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance National Charity Seal and the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, both widely recognized and meaningful mechanisms to demonstrate our continuing commitment to accountability, transparency and ethical practices.

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