Friday, November 4, 2011

NC Treasurer Launching $35M Fund Targeting Life Science Startups

Early-stage life science companies are about to get a boost from the state of North Carolina. Treasurer Janet Cowell will unveil what she calls the “Accelerator,” a $35 million investment fund, on Thursday at the Southeast BIO venture conference that is taking place in Durham. The SEBIO event opened Wednesday.
Cowell says the Accelerator targets startups with the twin goals of generating returns for the state’s pension and “supporting” the new and emerging companies. She plans to disclose details in a speech. The $35 million is part of the “Innovation Fund,” which Cowell launched last year. Early-stage funding is scarce for any category of start-ups in North Carolina, but in the life science sector where drug and device development take years and can cost hundreds of millions of dollars the need for funding is very pressing.

Cowell has looked for ways to help boost the state's entrepreneurial community since her election in 2008. “North Carolina is a good investment,” Cowell said in launching the $230 million fund in March of last year. “As we look globally for opportunities to achieve a high rate of return for our pensioners, we need to be diligent in looking into the possibilities that are in our own backyard.” Credit Suisse was hired to manage the overall fund and was tasked with finding investments in “high impact, high growth areas,” Cowell said in March. The Accelerator fund could be getting guidance from at least a couple Triangle-area executives focused on life science and investing.

Venture capitalist Christy Shaffer of Hatteras Venture Partners and Don Rose, director of UNC-CH's “Carolina KickStart Program,” are scheduled to participate in a press conference with Cowell. Shaffer served as chief executive officer of Inspire Pharmaceuticals before moving into the investment world. Cowell is scheduled to speak at noon at the Washington Duke Inn, which is the site of the SEBIO conference.

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