For nearly two decades, Biocrossroads has established itself as a leader in helping to build Indiana’s life sciences sector and a major source of venture capital for Indiana-based life sciences startups. Biocrossroads has also been one of Indiana University’s most effective partners in helping to move laboratory discoveries into the marketplace and catalyzing a robust culture of entrepreneurship and innovation across the Hoosier state.
A new report from Biocrossroads reflects the enormous impact that continued capital investments from our state, its leading public research universities and groups like Biocrossroads are having on fueling the expansion of Indiana’s early-stage companies.
“Supporting Life Sciences: A Look Back at Biocrossroads’ Capital Strategy” details the results of major investment funds that have provided important capital to Indiana’s life sciences startups over the past 15 years. The report includes examples of startup companies that have received seed-stage and venture capital funds from Biocrossroads and have gone on to receive significant follow-on investments. Biocrossroads’ three Indiana Seed Funds, totaling more than $24 million, have invested in 32 life sciences startups since 2006; remarkably, those companies have gone on to raise an additional $796 million — or more than 33 times Biocrossroads’ initial investment.
Many of these companies have their roots in IU scientific and technological research and are growing as part of the ever-expanding portfolio supported by IU Ventures, which assists IU students, faculty, staff and alumni in work that advances high-potential new venture opportunities. IU Ventures is also a limited partner in two of Biocrossroads’ three early-stage capital funds, which have helped advance the development of companies that feature promising biological or technical innovations, are results-driven and are led by highly competent management teams.
For example, both Biocrossroads and IU Ventures include in their portfolios Kovina Therapeutics, a preclinical biotechnology startup seeking to develop new treatments for Human Papillomavirus related infections and cancers. Kovina was founded in 2020 by Dr. Elliot Androphy, professor and chair of the department of dermatology at the IU School of Medicine; Dr. Samy Meroueh, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the School of Medicine, and pharmaceutical professional Dr. Zhijian Lu.
Both groups are also heavily invested in the continued growth of Carmel-based MBX Biosciences, which was founded by Richard DiMarchi, a distinguished professor of chemistry and Gill Chair in biomolecular sciences at IU, along with IUPUI alumnus Kent Hawryluk and Tim Knickerbocker. MBX is a preclinical-stage biotech company committed to creating therapies to treat rare endocrine diseases where there is inadequate treatment available. A founding investor in MBX, IU Ventures has provided a total of $1 million in support to the company through the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, one of the three investment programs it manages. This included an initial $500,000 investment in the company in 2019. MBX also has several ties with IU, including an agreement for the company to support research at the DiMarchi Laboratory in Bloomington.
The Indianapolis-based clinical stage biotechnology company Apexian Pharmaceuticals is led by Mark R. Kelley, the Betty and Earl Herr Professor of Pediatric Oncology Research at the IU School of Medicine. The company is focused on developing first-in-class therapeutic agents to treat a number of pediatric and adult cancers as well as several other life-threatening diseases.
Apexian received venture funding under Biocrossroads’ Indiana Future Fund, established in 2003 to promote the creation of Indiana-based businesses on the cutting edge of biotechnology. Recently, IU Ventures announced a $100,000 follow-on investment in Apexian through its own Innovate Indiana Fund, which had previously supported a $300,000 investment in the company. The collective funding that the company has received has helped it mature from having one compound in clinical trials to possessing a broader pipeline of new agents and conducting emerging research that has signaled promise in treatments for cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.
In citing the successes of all of these companies, the Biocrossroads report serves to underscore the fundamental importance of critical early-stage investment to the state’s innovation strategy. It also suggests that groups like Biocrossroads and IU Ventures will have an even greater impact in the future on igniting Indiana’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Watch an IU Ventures video about the mission, success and growth of MBX Biosciences.