Three Female Founders Reach ‘to the Stars’, Graduate from Ad Astra Accelerator

Cooler Heads, Hydrostasis and Vivid Genomics completed Ad Astra’s 12-week intensive accelerator and each received a $20,000 investment from the organization

SAN DIEGO (Dec. 13, 2018) – Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” was the anthem of the night as three local life science startups – Cooler Heads, Hydrostasis and Vivid Genomics – took the stage on Dec. 6 as new graduates of Ad Astra, a research-based accelerator for women. To mark the occasion, the startup founders presented their business pitches to an audience of more than 150 prospective investors, partners, friends and family in the AMN Healthcare auditorium in San Diego. The founders, who each received a $20,000 investment from Ad Astra, are the second cohort of graduates from Ad Astra, which was founded by Vidya Dinamani, Allison Long Pettine, and Dr. Silvia Mah.

“Over the past 12 weeks, these determined founders worked through our rigorous program to establish a strong business foundation and gain the tools necessary to succeed as a leader,” says Dinamani. “They’ve been partnered with mentors through one-on-one sessions, have conducted investor simulations, and have connected with advisors to strengthen their companies. Now they’re ready to thrive in their own unique ways.”

The new graduates include:

Debbie K. Chen, Ph.D., of Hydrostasis – A former imaging/data scientist at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Dr. Debbie K. Chen is developing a personalized hydration monitor for athletes to reach and maintain peak performance. The company’s initial product is aimed at providing professional coaches with unparalleled accuracy and giving athletes an edge with their performance, while increasing athlete safety, recovery and longevity.

Julie Collens, Ph.D., of Vivid Genomics – Bringing her experience in genomics, molecular diagnostics and life science tools, Dr. Julie Collens founded Vivid Genomics, a company developing non-invasive tools to identify underlying neurodegenerative disease pathologies, drug response, progression rate and tools to facilitate on-target enrollment for clinical trials, thus improving the probability of getting to a successful drug for Alzheimer’s disease.

Kate Dilligan of Cooler Heads – A graduate of Stanford University, Dilligan was the former vice president of a neural technology innovation company. As the founder of Cooler Heads, she’s transforming the experience of cancer patients by providing empathetically designed products that address the special needs of cancer patients.

Ad Astra Audience Dec 6 2018Ad Astra, which translates “to the stars” in Latin, was founded earlier this year to provide a distinctive program focused on business foundations, with a research-based curriculum specifically for female entrepreneurs. Through its programming and investment platform, Ad Astra gives women real-world experience with expert investors and entrepreneur mentors.

The organization’s design and approach is what sets it apart, as Long Pettine says, “Our proprietary framework provides our founders with an awareness of the world’s unconscious bias, an understanding of how it uniquely impacts them and then gives them specific tools to neutralize bias.”

Mah, a scientist and an investor, adds, “San Diego is a mecca for life science, so we’re investing in and supporting female founders so they can better leverage the robust regional strength in this industry. This cohort will make a significant global impact because of great product-market fit and because they are empathetic leaders.”

Ad Astra is sponsored by Qualcomm Ventures, Zipdev, Silicon Valley Bank, Cooley LLP, DLA Piper, JLL, and Marsh & McLennan Companies. Ad Astra partners include Athena, San Diego Venture Group, and Johnson & Johnson Innovation JLABS.

About Ad Astra Ventures:

Founded in 2018 by San Diegans Vidya Dinamani, Allison Long Pettine, and Dr. Silvia Mah, Ad Astra Ventures is dedicated to growing and building female leaders through thoughtful programming and investment opportunities. The organization’s first program is a 12-week business accelerator for high-growth startups led by one or more females. With the support of organizations like Athena, Ad Astra is building a global community of founders, investors, executives and philanthropists passionate about putting more women in leadership positions. For more information, please visit

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Founders Julie Collens, Debbie Chen and Kate Dilligan took the stage on Dec. 6 as new graduates of Ad Astra, a 12-week research-based accelerator focused on women.

Founders Julie Collens, Debbie Chen and Kate Dilligan took the stage on Dec. 6 as new graduates of Ad Astra, a 12-week research-based accelerator focused on women.












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