A New Playbook for Cure-Seeking Nonprofits

A New Playbook for Cure-Seeking Nonprofits

by Kathy Giusti and Richard Hamermesh

The Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator at Harvard Business School is democratizing what it has learned to help thousands of disease-focused nonprofits generate cures.

The Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator is now embarking on the next stage of our journey.

Over our first few years we worked with a diverse group of 300 business and nonprofit experts to develop knowledge, insights, and best practices about accelerating the work of disease-focused organizations. In a relatively short period, we brought together these leading thinkers from multiple organizations and disciplines who shared valuable insights and information with early movers at cure-seeking organizations focused on multiple diseases.

Our next step is to disseminate our learnings more broadly while democratizing  what we have learned as a playbook for the cure-seeking ecosystem—particularly the next generation of innovative nonprofit leaders who want to rapidly accelerate bringing cures to patients.

What follows is a recap of why the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator was founded, a brief summary of what we’ve done, and a preview of our exciting path forward.

The Challenge and Solution

As we described in our previous article1 in the Journal of Precision Medicine, the idea for the Kraft Precision  Medicine  Accelerator  came from the tragic, frustrating experiences of the Kraft family—experiences that are unfortunately shared by far too many families.

When Myra Kraft, wife of Robert and mother of Jonathan Kraft, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the Krafts also learned of amazing scientific discoveries, but also experienced a broken, fragmented healthcare system where breakthroughs do not get to patients fast enough and where collaboration among different stakeholders is often lacking.

Realizing that many of the challenges hindering the advancement of precision medicine are business challenges, the Krafts donated $20 million to  Harvard  Business School to establish the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator. Their goals were to catalyze breakthrough business models and to bring about disruptive, systematic changes to move discoveries from the lab to patients much faster.

Learning from Early Movers

The mission of the Kraft Accelerator is not to bring one specific drug to market faster but rather to act as a catalyst in accelerating the entire precision medicine ecosystem to generate cures.

Our philosophy was to tap our Rolodexes, email directories, and social media colleagues and use the convening power of Harvard Business School to identify and work with innovative first and second movers in the world of

precision medicine. This included over 300 leading influencers and thinkers from across the entire healthcare system as well as investors, patient and consumer engagement experts, data management gurus, and leaders from forward-thinking nonprofits and foundations.

In bringing together these diverse thought leaders and early movers, we sought to understand their challenges and the keys to their success, and then capture and convey the insights they gleaned to the “next movers”— creating a ripple effect across the ecosystem to accelerate progress and produce cures.

Starting with a blank sheet of paper and a goal of accelerating cures, we focused our initial efforts on four workstreams where we believed we could have the greatest impact. We brought together leaders for each workstream who believed in our mission and were committed to share their time and best thinking.

The four workstreams and some of the participating organizations in each were:

1. Direct-to-Patient (DTP).

  • Goal: Identify best practices for cure-seeking organizations to engage patients and share their data for research.
  • Participants: Consumer experts from organizations like Marriott, Salesforce, Peloton, Reebok, and the Boston  Red Sox, along with leaders from nonprofit organizations such as the Prostate Cancer Foundation, LUNGevity, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance, All of Us, and Verily.

2. Data, Analytics, and AI

  • Goal: Review best practices for aggregating and standardizing data, and the landscape for organizations involved in data.
  • Participants: Data experts from organizations like IQVIA and Novartis, as well as leaders from nonprofits focused on data, including the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

Home page of Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator’s website

The Kraft Accelerator’s “Use the Tools” new online Playbook and website


3. Clinical Trials

  • Goal: Improve and accelerate clinical
  • Participants: Experts on clinical trials from GBM Agile, MyDRUG (a platform trial launched by the MMRF), and Precision Promise (PanCAN’s adaptive clinical trial platform) as well as Beat AML, I-SPY 2, Lung-MAP, and NCI-Match.

4. Investment & Venture

  • Goal: Identify innovative funding models that are accelerating
  • Participants: Executives from leading financial organizations such as Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, venture capital firm MPM, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) with its T1D Fund (focused on diabetes), and the Dementia Discovery

Through multiple convenings of these workstreams and through executive education sessions on the Harvard Business School campus, the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator facilitated connections among these 300 early movers and aggregated significant insights. These  organizations are now applying what they learned during these interactions.

Broadly Disseminating What We’ve Learned

We are extremely proud of how the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator has evolved  and what we have accomplished. We decided that now is the right time to build on these accomplishments and disseminate these learnings more broadly beyond  the initial 300 early movers by democratizing business insights with the larger cure-seeking community, particularly those nonprofit leaders who are hungry for additional resources and guidance. Our sights are now set on helping accelerate the work of the roughly 22,000 disease-focused nonprofits in the United States.

We started by leveraging what we learned publishing numerous articles in business publications such as the Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and Forbes, as well as mainstream publications like Time, the Boston Globe, and HuffPost.  We wrote nine case studies along with several white papers on specific topics. A few examples of these items are cited in the Reference  section, along with more articles, case studies, white papers, and publications on the Kraft Accelerator website.

As the Accelerator has become more widely known, we have been inundated with inquiries from nonprofit leaders and  board  members who want to take their organization to the next level. Just as rewarding have been contacts from passionate individuals  who want to jumpstart the process of founding a new  nonprofit focused on curing a specific disease. These inquiries have an urgency and a desire not to reinvent the wheel; they want to take advantage of what we have learned so they can go further, faster in driving cures. Also, while our initial focus was accelerating precision medicine to treat and cure cancers, we have seen patterns leading us to realize that our work is broadly applicable for all diseases, far beyond cancer.

Our Next Phase = Igniting the Next Movers

Cure-seeking organizations are often founded and led by passionate individuals who see a disease lacking treatments and cures. They want to make a difference in getting better treatments to patients faster. But these organizations frequently lack the business strategies and plans they need to successfully move forward. Nonprofit founders aren’t sure of the best, most effective ways to develop these strategies and don’t have the time to start from scratch in figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Some may be unaware that best practices exist for starting a cure-seeking nonprofit or where to find relevant resources.

This is where the Kraft Accelerator can add significant value by leveraging our accumulated learning. Our message to nonprofit leaders who aspire to take their organizations to the next level: “If you’ve got the passion, we’ve got the playbook.”

The Kraft Accelerator’s newly launched website-based Playbook is a collection of frameworks, tools, case studies, and resources— developed based on the insights of experts and early movers—to help nonprofits develop their strategy and game plan. It is a launching pad for the next generation of cure-seeking nonprofits.

This Playbook is a resource to help organizations assess the readiness of their leadership, strategy, and funding. For those

“If you’ve got the passion, we’ve got the playbook”

organizations ready and committed to becoming game-changing “next movers,” the Kraft Accelerator Playbook will be the valuable resource organizations need to accelerate their progress. The Kraft Accelerator Playbook can be found at www.hbs.edu/kraft-accelerator.

This site consists of:

  • Our Story.  Meet and learn from the diverse group of 300 first movers who contributed their insights and experiences.
  • Get Inspired. Harvard Business Review is publishing a series of articles on the key success factors for accelerating cures—leadership, strategy,2 and funding. These HBR articles raise questions that must be answered about an organization’s readiness to proceed and the path the organization will take.
  • Tools. A suite of six hands-on tools to guide nonprofit leaders through strategy development. Having a strategy is essential but the process can be intimidating. These tools, which have been developed, reviewed, and tested by industry leaders, simplify the process. A real-world case study of how the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation used these tools shows nonprofits, “You can do it too.”
  • Learn from the Leaders. A series of white papers from each workstream pulls together valuable, real-world lessons of the past few years. Topics include engaging patients in registries, launching platform trials, recouping data costs, and initiating an impact investment fund.
  • HBS Cases. These cases, used in Harvard Business School’s executive education courses, highlight strategies successful nonprofits have  used to overcome their most significant financial and operational challenges.

Our interactions with nonprofits and initial research have confirmed there is a significant appetite for the tools and resources in this Playbook, particularly among nonprofit leaders and board members who want to move forward extremely quickly and don’t want to start from scratch.

Fulfilling Harvard Business School’s Mission

It is our hope that the Playbook will be used by nonprofits, board members, healthcare leaders, industry funders, and others to improve the running of current disease-focused organizations and to make it faster and easier to start and scale new organizations.

The mission of Harvard Business School has always been to generate and communicate knowledge to shape leaders who will make a difference in the world. Based on the Krafts’ vision and commitment, we are excited to have created this Playbook, to begin democratizing what we have learned, and to broadly catalyze change throughout the cure-seeking ecosystem. Collectively, these actions are consistent with fulfilling HBS’s mission of making a difference in the world—now in the era of precision medicine.

Kathy GiustiKathy Giusti, Faculty Co-Chair of the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator and the Henry & Allison McCance Family Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School. Kathy established the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) in 1998, shortly after being diagnosed with the disease.

She has led MMRF in establishing collaborative research models in tissue banking, genomics, clinical trials, and data sharing. Recognized as a leader in precision medicine, Kathy has been named by Time as one of the world’s 100 most influential people and by Fortune as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.


Richard HamermeshRichard Hamermesh, Baker Foundation Professor of Management Practice, Faculty Co-Chair of the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator, and Harvard Senior Fellow, is also a cancer survivor. Richard was the founding Faculty Chair of the HBS Healthcare Initiative. Richard is an active investor and entrepreneur, having participated as a principal, director, and investor in the founding and early stages of over 20 organizations. Richard is the author or co-author of five books and has published numerous articles and case studies.



  1. How Harvard Business School is Accelerating Precision Medicine, Journal of Precision Medicine, March 2020, //www.thejournalofprecisionmedicine.com/march-2020/.
  2. How Medical Nonprofits Set Winning Strategy, March 06, 2020, https://hbr.org/2020/03/how-medical-nonprofits-set-winning-strategy.
  3. An Urgent Mission to Speed Progress Against Cancer, May 25, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/an-urgent-mission-to-speed-progress-against-cancer-1527260815.
  4. Today’s Healthcare Consumer: Driving Engagement & Delivering Value, May 15, 2019, https://www.hbs.edu/kraft-accelerator/Documents/HBS-Kraft-Precision-Medicine-Accelerator-Direct-to-Patient-Key-Themes.pdf.
  1. Under the Datascope, accessed January 28, 2020, https://www.hbs.edu/kraft-accelerator/podcast/Pages/default.aspx.
  2. Master Protocols in Oncology: A Review of the Landscape, March 9, 2018, http://www.appliedclinicaltrialsonline.com/master-protocols-oncology-review-landscape
  3. The Time Is Now: Accelerating Precision Medicine Through Investment, February 28, 2019, https://www.hbs.edu/kraft-accelerator/Documents/HBSKraftPrecisionMedicineAccelerator2019KeyThemes.pdf
  4. Impact Investing: A New Way to Fund Cures for Cancer, February 25, 2019, https://www.statnews.com/2019/02/25/impact-investing-fund-cancer-cures/.
  5. In Quest for Cures, Medical Nonprofits Seek to Wield Their Own Venture Funding Power, May 31, 2019, https://webreprints.djreprints.com/56422.html.
  6. 4 Important Steps to Take After a Cancer Diagnosis, February 12, 2019, https://time.com/5525656/cancer-diagnosis-what-to-do/.
  7. What Cancer Researchers Can Learn from Direct-to-Consumer Companies, January 12, 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/01/what-cancer-researchers-can-learn-from-direct-to-consumer-companies.
  8. A New Approach to Safely Sharing Cancer Patients’ Data, June 21, 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/06/a-new-approach-to-safely-sharing-cancer-patients-data.
  9. Impact Investing: A New Way to Fund Cures for Cancer, February 25, 2019, https://www.statnews.com/2019/02/25/impact-investing-fund-cancer-cures/.
  10. What Precision Medicine Can Learn From the NFL, April 13, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/sciencebiz/2017/04/13/what-precision-medicine-can-learn-from-the-nfl/#5ab6f6745ada.
  11. Exploring the Frontiers of Data and Analytics for Precision Medicine, October 25, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBcDd3bywZg&list=PLPndSdqaaC1b60gctzaleOH3T5KWquGy3.
  12. Intermountain Healthcare: Pursuing Precision Medicine, Harvard Business School Case Study, September 2017, https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=53323.
  13. Dementia Discovery Fund, Harvard Business School Case Study, September 2019, https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=56846.
  14. Breakthroughs at Blueprint Medicines, Harvard Business School Case Study, October

Additional Information

For more information about the Kraft Precision
Medicine Accelerator, contact kraft_accelerator@hbs.edu
or call 1.617.495.1782.