The California Institute of Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) is collaborating with a newly launched $7.5 million fund to provide startup capital for University of California bioscience entrepreneurs and a long-term endowment for QB3.
The Mission Bay Capital Fund will be a key element of QB3 efforts to help UC scientists translate their research into products and biomedical therapies for the public good.
This is the first fund for Mission Bay Capital LLC., a San Francisco-based firm that was created in August to make pivotal, early-stage investments in bioscience companies. The firm is independent of both QB3 and the UC system, but will invest in bioscience companies stemming from UC research.
The current fund has a three-fold goal: to kick-start 15 companies with an average of $500,000 in seed funding, bring public attention to the caliber of UC science, and attract the attention of other venture capital firms to participate in this process.
Companies will be considered based on both their likelihood of commercial success and potential benefit to society, according to QB3 Executive Director Regis Kelly, PhD, who had the initial vision for an outside philanthropic fund to support QB3 and serves as an unpaid director of Mission Bay Capital.
"American taxpayers provide billions of dollars per year for scientific research in the hopes of having it pay off to society by creating the technologies and medicines of the future," said Kelly, citing funding for basic research through the National Institutes of Health and other organizations. "This funding is absolutely critical for the entrepreneurs who are trying to do that."
UC scientists have founded one in three biotechnology companies in California, including five of the world's largest biopharmaceutical companies: Amgen Inc., Applied Biosystems Inc., Chiron Corp. (now part of Novartis International AG), Genentech Inc. (now part of Roche Group), and IDEC Pharmaceuticals Corp. (now Biogen-Idec Inc.).
Since those companies began, however, much has changed in the funding world, especially for bioscience and bio-technology companies, Kelly said. The combination of limited federal funding for later-stage research and the recent trend of investors retreating from early funding has made it increasingly difficult for entrepreneurial scientists to bridge the two funding sources and translate their research into products and therapies.
The new fund builds upon ongoing QB3 efforts to help bioscience entrepreneurs create new companies based on their research. Those efforts include the QB3 "Garage" and QB3 Mission Bay Incubator Network, both of which provide micro-amounts of laboratory space for entrepreneurs. The institute also has created the QB3 Innovation Toolkit, which provides access to the legal, management and investment expertise critical to avoiding many of the initial mistakes that often derail startups.
Since QB3 created the Garage in 2003, it has helped launch 21 startup bioscience companies on the UCSF Mission Bay campus and its surrounding neighborhood, including four that have successfully landed follow-on funding or were purchased by larger companies. Twelve of those companies were launched in the past year.
"There is a tremendous amount of bioscience research in the UC system that is perfectly suited for seed-stage funding," said Brook Byers, a founding partner of venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who serves on the pro bono Mission Bay Capital investment advisory committee. "We're hoping this fund could be a long-term solution to that problem, a model for other universities nationwide, and a way of attracting more venture capital interest in UC projects."
The fund is designed to return 20 percent of the profits from the investments to populate subsequent Mission Bay Capital funds and to build an endowment for QB3, to support the institute's research and educational mission.
Both Kelly and QB3 Associate Director Douglas Crawford, PhD, serve as unpaid directors of Mission Bay Capital, LLC. The firm is operated outside the UC system and receives no state or public funding.
The fund includes two categories of limited partners: for-profit partners and philanthropists. Philanthropic partners invest in the fund to support QB3's mission of strengthening bioscience education and research, developing technologies to benefit the public good, and fostering economic growth. Those partners contribute to the fund via a gift to the UCSF Foundation.
Limited partners in the fund include Pfizer Inc.; John Wadsworth, Jr., of Manitou Ventures; and law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Investments, among others. Wilson Sonsini also is providing legal counsel to the entrepreneurs.
Mission Bay Capital is currently reviewing business plans from a number of QB3 and UC-related researchers.
About Mission Bay Capital, LLC
Mission Bay Capital, LLC, is an independent, seed-stage venture firm focused on making pivotal, early-stage investments in bioscience companies emerging from the University of California. Founded in August 2009, Mission Bay Capital combines the rich knowledge and navigation skills of QB3 executives - Regis Kelly and Douglas Crawford - with the experience and proven success of a renowned pro bono investment advisory committee led by Brook Byers and John Wadsworth. Mission Bay Capital is fueling breakthrough bioscience technologies to meet society's challenges while also helping to boost the California economy.
QB3 is a cooperative effort among private industry and more than 200 scientists at UCSF, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. One of four technology institutes created in 2000 by former California Governor Gray Davis, QB3 harnesses the quantitative sciences of information technology, imaging and engineering to integrate and enhance scientific understanding of biological systems at all levels, enabling scientists to tackle problems that have been previously unapproachable. More information can be found at www.qb3.org.
UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. Please visit www.ucsf.edu.