NC Has ‘Great Ecosystem’ But Lacks VC, Panelists Say
North Carolina, rich in scientific expertise and supporting resources, is one of the nation’s best places to start a life science enterprise, a panel of early stage company entrepreneurs agreed at the CED Life Science Conference in Raleigh.
“There’s a great ecosystem here,” said Galen Robertson, chief operating officer of Durham-based 410 Medical, citing the presence of organizations such as the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the Council for Entrepreneurial Development. These and other entities “are all here to help you grow your company,” said Robertson, whose firm has developed LifeFlow, a medical device for delivering fluids to critically ill patients quickly and efficiently.
“Nothing really matches North Carolina’s support,” echoed Malcolm Thomas, chief operating officer at Raleigh-based Agile Sciences, a spinout of North Carolina State University that is developing treatments for antibiotic resistant infections.
“North Carolina is a good place for a startup. It makes good sense to be here, compared to say, the West Coast or Boston or New York. Certainly, North Carolina does have a lot going for it.”
With one exception, Thomas noted.
“Money is missing,” he said. “Most of the money is coming from California.”
That’s been a recurring theme in North Carolina, which lacks the big troves of venture capital found in California, Boston and New York.
One company on the stage that has raised substantial venture investment is Chondrial Therapeutics, a spinout of Wake Forest University that is developing treatments for Friedrich’s ataxia and other mitochondrial diseases. The company, now based in Bala Cynwyd, Penn., closed on $22.6 million in Series A funding in November 2016.
The CED session, University Life Science Startups: From Campus Invention to Commercial Impact, featured eight startup companies spun out of Duke University, NCSU, UNC-Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University: 410 Medical, Agile Sciences, AnnelleO, Chondrial Therapeutics, EncepHeal Therapeutics, Phitonex, Spyryx Biosciences and Zephyr Mobility.
The pre-conference session was moderated by Vivian Doelling, vice president of emerging company development at the Biotechnology Center.