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UMB’s New Ventures Initiative Fosters Commercialization

Friday, April 7, 2017

Innovative science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore is getting an extra boost through an innovative program fueled by UM Ventures called the “New Ventures Initiative” (NVI), which is headquartered in the Lion Brothers Building.  

UMB’s New Ventures Initiative is designed to bring together management expertise, business formation strategy, a physical space, and early-stage capital critical for success for new startups.

The New Ventures Initiative has a team of on staff experts with years of successful business experience as entrepreneurs and in raising capital.  Due to the strength of the team, several new startups have been launched and received seed funding.  And, these new companies are at the forefront of several innovations in healthcare: from developing personalized cellular immunotherapies, to improving minimally invasive surgeries, to developing a novel nanotechnology platform to detect cancer and monitor for mutations.

In addition to business expertise and management, the NVI provides office space in an historic building at 875 Hollins Street in Baltimore. The 1,800-square foot office suite is part of the Lion Brothers Building in the University of Maryland BioPark, and thus allows for direct access to the many services and amenities offered to Park tenants.

“Collaborations between UMB faculty, UM Ventures experts, and investors are important to advancing medical science, and NVI helps bring together the key pieces at an important time in a company’s life. Some of our start-ups just need the boost the NVI provides to gain traction in the market,” said James L. Hughes, Director of UM Ventures, President, UMB Health Sciences Research Park Corporation, and Vice President and Chief Enterprise & Economic Development Officer, UM Baltimore. “Being able to launch our startup companies in dedicated space right within the UM Baltimore campus is exciting, too.”

Currently, NVI is hosting three portfolio companies, and plans to increase the number of companies in its portfolio by 2 to 4 over the next year. Today’s NVI portfolio companies include:

  • Living Pharma—Co-founded in 2015 by Eduardo Davila from the Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Living Pharma develops personalized chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapies tailored to an individual’s cancer.  
  • SurgiGyn—Co-founded in 2016 by Roger Brecheen, M.D., and Vadim Morozov, M.D., Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Services at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, SurgiGyn is developing minimally invasive surgical devices designed to improve the ease, safety and patient outcomes in laparoscopic hysterectomy.
  • Nanobernetics—Established in 2016, Nanobernetics is developing a highly sensitive carbon nanotube technology to enable precision monitoring of disease and detection of mutations in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia. The company was founded by Camilo Vanegas and Elizabeth Weingarter, both Ph.D. graduate students at UMB.

Staff expertise at NVI includes new venture specialists Rana Quraishi, Ph.D., Mark Lafferty, Ph.D., and Darryl Carter, M.D., who help organize new companies and find necessary resources for startups. The NVI team has executive-level experience developing and executing business strategies, raising private and public capital and taking a drug through Phase 2 clinical trials.

“We think the NVI model is unique in that it launches the company with direct oversight making the business offering more attractive to external partners and outside investors.  Our hope is to position these companies for sale or for transition to the next level, which would have different management needs.  For example, as a company plans its clinical trial strategy, the NVI team’s earlier work should enable the company to recruit a strong CEO with clinical trial experience,” said Phil Robilotto, DO, MBA, Chief Commercialization Officer for UM Ventures, Baltimore.