By Lori Solomon, Editor, Diagnostic Testing & Emerging Technologies
Early-stage investment capital is difficult to come by. But, with some notable acquisitions and initial public offerings making headlines in 2014, angel investors are looking with renewed interest at fledgling medtech startups. Experts say that by addressing this gap in seedling investment funding, emerging biotech angel investors can substantially impact the commercial potential of translational research.
Expanding Investment in the Southeast
Atlanta-based Bio/Med Investor Network, a group of life science angel investors, is looking for startups in the biomedical, medtech and health IT spaces. The group provides select startups with access to a network of wealthy individuals, but is not raising a fund. The network launched a few weeks ago with 40 backers, but expects to have 75 investor members by the end of the year. The founding directors include experienced investors, bioscience and health care executives, and prominent medical clinicians and academics. The high net-worth, accredited investors will jointly evaluate potential portfolio companies, but investments will be made on an individual basis.
Plans call for an initial concentration of investment in Georgia companies, including those spun out of local research universities – Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Morehouse School of Medicine. Portfolio startups will receive investments between $200,000 and $2 million. The group’s first quarterly investment screening will be in March. The network is ideally looking for companies that are past the prototype/proof of concept stage and are close to having customers or customer partnerships.
Turning to Universities
Further exemplifying how university research is being looked to for translational commercial opportunities, the Board of Trustees of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC) approved a new investment fund to aid translational research at the university. The Carolina Research Venture Fund will start with $5 million to help startup companies overcome funding gaps and accelerate commercialization of the university’s research. The university says the initial funding will come from investment earnings on non-state funds. It is reported that the fund will invest between $100,000 and $500,000 in each startup. Anticipated profits will roll back into the fund.
“Some of the best and brightest ideas in science and business are right here on campus, and we can advance both their application and the University’s mission by investing and accelerating their growth early on,” said UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt in a statement. “By bridging the capital gap for our own startup companies, we can make sure the innovative ideas and products created by early-stage companies reach the individuals who need them most.”