Tech Transfer eNews Blog
University-Industry Engagement Advisor

Penn to invest up to $50 million in local biotech start-ups

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: July 11th, 2018

The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) plans to invest up to $50 million in at least 10 biotech start-ups over the next three years.

Through this funding initiative, the university hopes to convince more local PhDs and MDs to launch their own companies close by, rather than moving to tech funding hubs like California or Massachusetts. In fact, a requirement for start-ups seeking funding from Penn is that they must maintain headquarters in the Philadelphia region.

Each company must also attract larger funding commitments from one or more major investment firm, meaning that Penn’s funds will be leveraged by attracting outside investments.

“The technology has been developed here and moved to Boston, because that’s where the funding was and the whole support network. It’s fascinating, because the cost of living is greater in Boston and San Francisco than in Philadelphia. But those cities are where the critical mass is,” says Felix Hsu, senior vice president at local biotech company WuXi AppTech. “If Philadelphia wants to be a major power in biotech, it needs to raise more money, more venture capital.”

Penn is considering investing in a number of start-ups including Carma Therapeutics, which is developing cellular immunotherapies to treat cancer. The company has secured funding from investment firm AbbVie Ventures, which has offices in San Francisco and Boston. An investment from Penn is expected come soon.


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