AVX July 2021 Update

Ahmet-Hamdi Cavusoglu

July 1, 2021

For those of you in the US - Happy 4th of July weekend! Are you as excited as I am that the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act passed the Senate last month? Or is the summer weather with heat domes and flash floods getting you down? Well cool off by diving into our latest monthly newsletter!

After 25 years, Jon Soderstrom (Founding AVX Board Member) celebrated his last day as Managing Director of Yale's Office of Cooperative Research yesterday on June 30. To requote Michael Crair, "since 2000 more than 75 startups with over $2 billion in venture capital and another $7 billion in public equity financing based on Yale intellectual property have taken root in New Haven" due to the great work of Jon and his team. Congratulations and what a tenure it has been! In other big updates, the finalists for The Spinoff Prize 2021 by Nature/Merck were announced - a handful that you saw here on AVX over the past year! And remember, COVID is still a global concern, and to address it Amazon has developed the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative (H/T KdT Ventures), a two-year, $20M commitment to accelerate research and innovation to advance the collective understanding and detection of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases in order to mitigate current and future outbreaks.

In the rest of this newsletter, I will highlight some of our progress at AVX, highlight a few (digital) events from around the network, and suggest some think pieces and podcasts to consume.

A few upcoming deadlines for the AVX community:

  1. Endless Frontier Labs: EFL helps startups scale through a nine-month performance-based mentoring process. EFL is open to early-stage science and technology startups looking to raise a Seed or Series A round over the course of the program. The program is suitable for founders from around the world seeking connections to the U.S. ecosystem. EFL is accepting applications through Friday, August 6th, 2021. If you’d like to learn more, please join us for an upcoming info session or contact us at info@endlessfrontierlabs.com.
  2. Creative Destruction Lab: CDL delivers an objectives-based mentorship and investment program for massively scalable, seed-stage, science- and technology-based companies. CDL operates a variety of technology streams at ten sites including Toronto (AI, Blockchain, Health, Matter, Neuro, Prime, Quantum, Space), Atlanta (Commerce), Seattle (Computational Biology), and Wisconsin (Risk, Health). The application deadline for the 2021/22 cohort is July 30th.
  3. BioFoundry: The BioFoundry trains biopharma startup founders to lead teams, pitch investors, and approach partners with confidence. And applications are live for biopharma startups! We focus on the business side of building your business – from investors to pharma companies to hiring. Learn more about the program, our requirements, and how to apply here: https://www.venturelink.org/biofoundry
  4. SciFounder Fellowship: SciFounder Fellowship is a program to help early career scientists start companies of their own. We believe that companies can often be the best way to pursue translational research, and not enough scientists consider this as a serious option. The Fellowship program provides a cash investment of $400,000 to each founding team to get started, along with mentorship and a peer-network of other scientists starting companies to help support you. Our second application cycle ends August 15.
  5. The Clean Fight: The second edition of The Clean Fight will be focused on high-growth, scalable solutions tackling the decarbonization of the mass-market of buildings. Those that are tough to crack but critical to decarbonize. Where many stakeholders don’t have the same time, resources and funding as their Class A brethren. Applications close July 18th.
  6. UCSF Hunting for EIRs: UCSF Innovation Ventures is currently looking for potential EIR candidates for projects in Therapeutics and dHealth. Their EIR selection criteria is as follows: someone who is very experienced at starting biotech companies, has been successful before as an entrepreneur/CEO, knows how to raise money, has an exit(s) under his/her belt and has the drive to make a successful company. If you are interested, or can provide a reference to someone who may be interested, feel free to reach out to me or Darya Bubman at darya.bubman@ucsf.edu

With our updated interface, you can see all ventures here: AVX Feed

The Spinoff Prize Finalists

C2i Genomics (Cornell) - A sensitive strategy for tumour surveillance

ONA Therapeutics (Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Barcelona) - A drug to block fat intake and combat cancer spread

Bilitech (Cambridge) - Miniature organs to heal damaged livers

Sibylla Biotech (Trento/NINP/Perugia) - Turning transient structures into drug targets

GrayMatters Health (Tel Aviv University) - Better brain training for treating psychological conditions

Neuronostics (Exeter) - Accelerating the diagnosis of epilepsy with computer modelling

Cambridge Photon Technology (Cambridge) - Solar cells that make use of wasted light

HighT-Tech (UMaryland) - Better catalysts from super-fast heating

Spinoff Prize Semi-Finalists from the AVX Community

Volexion (Northwestern) - A graphene coating that protects the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries from degradation, resulting in increased battery power and durability

Rappta Therapeutics (Case) - Small-molecule drugs that treat cancer by reactivating the tumour suppressor PP2A protein

Melio (UCSD) - A blood test that identifies many common bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens in newborn babies in less than three hours

Conversation Statistics

We are up to 12,909 total connections and conversations on the AVX network - 329 more over the last month (3% month over month growth). We are currently tracking 20 potential match negotiations and another 116 with multi-month long discussions heading toward possible matches. We have now actively connected 581 different ventures (out of 1730+ examined) with 1365 different entrepreneurs and investors (out of a pool of 3200+)

Top Digital Events

Jul 8: TenU Hosts Regional Development The US and UK have a significant number of world-ranking universities that have very large research budgets and that generate cutting edge intellectual property distributed across their countries. Despite this, there remain variations within both countries – with regions that to date have not generated the same level of global and domestic investment in their innovation clusters as counterparts with rich ecosystems. This is a missed opportunity at the national level and a missed opportunity for many global investors and corporates that could profitably exploit the rich seams of IP and capability that exist in the lesser-known regions. Join George Baxter (CEO, Edinburgh Innovations), Andrew Wilkinson (CEO, University of Manchester Innovation Factory), Kirsten Leute (Partner, Osage University Partners) Nichole Mercier (Assistant Vice Chancellor & Managing Director, Washington University in St Louis), Elizabeth Roper (Partner, Epidarex Capital), and Vikas Shah (Managing Director & CEO, Swiscot) for a conversation highlighting specific collaborative approaches that have proven successful and discuss policy incentives to increase their potential. This includes implications for national policy – the UK Government’s R&D Places Strategy and in the US the USICA bill to invest in regional technology hubs and innovation centres.

Jul 12: 2021 Future Insight Days The eight Spinoff Prize Finalists companies earned the right to enter a ‘pitch slam’ competition, in which they each presented their businesses to the judges. One of these companies will be announced as the winner of the €30,000 (US$36,000) prize at Future Insight Days 2021 on 12 July. This online event is organized by Merck in Darmstadt, Germany, Nature’s partner in The Spinoff Prize.

Jul 22: Extreme Tech Challenge Global Finals XTC is the world’s largest transformative tech startup competition and forum for the leaders of tomorrow to be able to unleash their full potential. Last year, the competition attracted startups from 87 countries, and one third of the  XTC 2020 finalists raised more than $167M combined in venture investment since being selected. This year, over 3700 startups applied from 92 countries across XTC’s competition tracks: Agtech, Food & Water, Cleantech & Energy, Edtech, Enabling Tech, Fintech, Healthtech, and Mobility & Smart Cities.

Jul 22: MALSI+2021 is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ flagship event connecting scientific innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and investors to celebrate the many ways Massachusetts leads the nation in bringing translational science to the market. See the Agenda here.

Jul 22: LaunchBio's Fourth Annual Big Pitch Competition The Big Pitch is a virtual quick pitch competition for the most promising biotech startups in the US. This series challenges all-stars from 3 regions—West, South and Northeast—to score points with investor judges for their treatment, technology or therapy. The winning startup will take home the grand prize and bragging rights as our 2021 National Champion. Join judges Andrew McDonald (Founding Partner, LifeSci Advisors), Silvia Mah (Founding Partner, Ad Astra Ventures), Jon Edwards (Managing Director, Red Tree Venture Capital), Linda Lohr (Senior Director, Pfizer), and Imran Nasrullah (Vice President, Bayer Pharmaceuticals) as dig into the finalists: Sidereal Therapeutics, Concarlo Holdings, Iluria, Plakous Therapeutics, EndoCyclic Therapeutics, and TrAMPoline Pharma.


Some Thought Pieces

Let's go back and visit the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (fka the Endless Frontier Act) for a moment. US research organizations and associations are praising the drastically increased funding for government R&D - as we should! Though we should think about how both geopolitical tensions and COVID is accelerating changes in global science collaborations. Some of this could be heard during the NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) Federal Technology Transfer discussion back in May. While we are seeing some added federal support for the deep tech ecosystem, much more thought is needed about who gets lifted up, where do we need to inspect next, and what we risk leaving behind. Some of this is highlighted by Bobby Franklin and Michael Brown of the NVCA in a recent article, though I welcome your own thoughts!

Hopefully all of you are as compelled as I am to expand the opportunity in biotech ventures for women! Two items I want to make sure crosses your eyes includes amplifyHERscience from Yale OCR and FiercePharma's hunt for the Fiercest Women in Life Sciences in 2021. The Wave Summit on Jun 10 was a great digital event and included the announcement of 21 emerging women founders in Biotech, including many leading technology ventures spun-out of AVX partners! Congratulations are in order for these women who are driving innovation in therapeutics, diagnostics, sustainable foods and more! And have you remembered to set aside time for WUSTL's and OUP's Equalize (Sept 22)?

In other bits of thoughtful writing - have you found yourself feeling left behind as you read about all of the exciting announcements while stuck at home during the pandemic and stuck wondering 'how are they so good?' (🤚) Well, Morgan Housel at Collaborative Fund penned a great piece Harder Than It Looks, Not As Fun as It Seems that I hope you take some time to read and find a way to be a bit more forgiving to yourself and others. Prefer your parables in a shorter, history-lite format? Well, you might want to also check out Morgan's Little Stories highlighting freak events that changed everything and might make you second guess some of the predictions you see and think about.

And in some great NYC ClimateTech news, Newlab has recently launched their Blue Energy Studio to Power Renewable Energy Innovation with Ørsted. More thoughtful efforts are needed to help the US and the world transition toward reducing our carbon footprint, and I'm excited to see what spins out! Perhaps some of them might be featured on the Out of the Lab podcast by Max @ Bountiful.Work - and considering G2VP's recent announcement of their $500M Fund II, ClimateTech and CleanTech investment continues to grow in a timely fashion!

Still looking for more?

One bit of thinking I want to re-emphasize is that there are a wealth of transferable skills that straddle academia and industry, and the false duality of science vs. business risks pushing people apart or bringing false pairs together out of a rush to build. Take your time and remember the work that went into fixing your lab equipment. Or, you might find yourself feeling like an Amnesiac wondering how you ended up in a field of sheep - but hopefully not like this?

And finally, for those of your wonder what the fall-out of 'Hot Vax Summer' - well, it could just be a pop-up business opportunity for an outfit called PostDates (along with an emotional labor fee! 🤣)

As always, thank you for reading – Hamdi