Bioscience

Arizona’s first dedicated bioscience venture fund launches

February 5, 2008

By Flinn Foundation

Translational Accelerator, LLC
media release

Leading Phoenix-area bioscience and investment professionals today announced the formation of the Translational Accelerator, LLC (TRAC), a private, Arizona-based $20 million bioscience venture capital group. TRAC becomes Arizona’s first venture fund established to target early-stage bioscience companies. TRAC investments will only support firms located in Arizona or those planning to move to the state.

The establishment of TRAC begins to address one of Arizona’s most pressing needs in its quest to build a thriving bioscience sector: the need to attract venture capital.

“Funds such as TRAC are essential to a successful bioscience region,” said Walt Plosila, Ph.D., vice president of the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice and principle author of Battelle’s 2002 report, Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap. “Having early-stage venture capital available in Arizona can speed the commercialization of research discoveries into local firms and jobs rather than being developed elsewhere.”

In addition to authoring the report, Plosila has been instrumental in providing research and expertise to help state leaders implement the plan.

Fledgling bioscience companies typically face what Battelle references as the “Valley of Death”—the dry spell between research discovery, often financed by government or corporate grants, and late-stage clinical trials, when pharmaceutical firms and other investors typically begin to take interest. Established venture capital firms are increasingly hesitant to provide capital during the preclinical or early clinical stage of development, though without it, young firms cannot validate their discoveries or develop prototypes.

TRAC will generally invest between $500,000 and $2 million in any one company. Investments will focus on companies devoted to developing diagnostics, services, prevention agents and treatments directed to cancer and diseases of the central nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. Funding will support those efforts to move a scientific discovery from the lab into the clinic, the so-called translational stage.

TRAC is managed by four Phoenix-area bioscience and investment professionals: Richard Love, a former senior executive of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and former CEO of ILEX Oncology Inc.; Dan Von Hoff, M.D., Physician-in-Chief of TGen, Director of TGen’s Translational Drug Development Division and Chief Scientific Officer of Scottsdale Healthcare; Eric Tooker, J.D., president and chief executive officer of Medical Consultant Services; and John Bentley, a partner with Grayhawk Venture Partners. The concept for TRAC formed and gained support while Love was at TGen, as he recognized the need to attract investor funding to seed early discoveries that have commercial potential—whether developed at TGen or any of Arizona’s research institutions.

“A venture fund’s success depends in large part on the expertise of its managers and advisors,” Love said. “We have a top-notch team of individuals recognized nationally and beyond for their extensive experience in biomedical research and initiating successful commercial ventures.”

“Successful bioscience venture funds tend to attract the attention of investors nationwide,” Tooker said. “If done right, this could be the catalyst to leveraging significant out-of-state capital into Arizona.”

“Early-stage venture funding in biotech is very complex and sophisticated, and the TRAC fund is an example of the investors’ commitment in taking the needed risk to help drive Arizona’s economy,” said Barry Broome, Greater Phoenix Economic Council president and CEO.

The Fund is supported by a number of individual investors plus the Flinn Foundation, a Phoenix-based private foundation, which commissioned Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap.

“Much as information technologies drove economic progress in the past 25 years, many economists predict that the new discoveries in biology will be a driving force for the next 25 years,” said John Murphy, Flinn Foundation president and CEO. “The Foundation’s investment in TRAC is another way that we can support the growth of Arizona’s bioscience enterprise.”

Interested parties should contact Eric Tooker to request additional information at 480.268.2006 or at etooker@tracvc.com.