PCIV Spotlight 2022

The PCI Ventures 2022 Annual Report

About PCI Ventures

We provide a wide-ranging suite of products and services to support the development of early stage companies based on technologies and business ideas created at Penn as they make their way towards commercial success.

PCI Ventures actively seeks entrepreneurs to lead our portfolio companies and investors to provide funding for new ventures in development.

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Our Mission

PCI Ventures, a division of the Penn Center for Innovation, helps maximize the potential of Penn’s pioneering research to benefit the University, the investigative team, and society through the creation and stimulus of entrepreneurial endeavors at Penn.

PCIV Resources

  • Addressable market analysis
  • Corporate governance support
  • Commercialization grant assistance
  • Marketing material development
  • Company registration
  • Education programs
  • Entrepreneur coaching
  • Executive-level recruitment
  • Fundraising support
  • IP strategy development
  • Legal agreement templates
  • Mentors in residence
  • Preferred vendor relations
  • Strategic partner outreach
  • Weekly office hours
  • Workshops

By the Numbers

2022 Statistics

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74

Active Companies

14

new companies

3

executives hired

7

Companies generating revenue

>$187+ million

Raised by 19 PCIV Supported Companies

$438k

Back to Penn from sponsored research

Overall Statistics

12

Years in Operation

75

COMPANIES HAVE RECEIVED FUNDING

>$536+ million

raised in funding

>$25+ million

Back to Penn

82

UNIQUE SOURCES OF FUNDING

5

Company Exits

4

FDA Approvals

Highlights

Portfolio Highlights

Carisma Therapeutics, co-founded by Michael Klichinsky, MD, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at Carisma and Saar Gill, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine, is developing a differentiated and proprietary cell therapy platform focused on engineered macrophages; cells that play a crucial role in both the innate and adaptive immune response. 

Carisma started the new year off by announcing a strategic collaboration agreement with Moderna Inc. to discover, develop and commercialize in vivo engineered chimeric antigen receptor monocyte (CAR-M) therapeutics for the treatment of cancer. In late winter, Novartis announced an initial agreement with Carisma to manufacture the HER 2 targeted CAR-M cell therapy, which is tested in initial trials for the treatment of solid tumors.

This fall Carisma Therapeutics and Sesen Bio announced that they had entered into a definitive merger agreement to combine the companies in an all-stock transaction. “The proposed merger represents an exciting opportunity for shareholders of each company, and we believe it gets us one step closer to our goal of revolutionizing the field of immunotherapy,” said Steven Kelly, President and Chief Executive Officer of Carisma. 

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Cogwear was co-founded by Michael Platt, Director of the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative and James S. Riepe University Professor at University of Pennsylvania and Arjun Ramakrishnan, Assistant Professor of biological sciences and bioengineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. The company has developed a wearable, that delivers clinical-grade, cognitive detecting device for active situations which is powered by nanotechnology sensors, machine learning, and breakthrough neuroscientific research. In late fall, Cogwear announced its partnership with the Penn AI and Tech Collaboratory for Health Aging (PennAITech) to test physiological detection and monitoring for Alzheimer’s Disease using its novel technology. 

The company wrapped up the year with the exciting news that GlassView, the leading independent video advertising distribution and performance platform, announced its strategic investment in Cogwear to advance a new neuromarketing headband.  The patent-pending device will sense emotions and other physiological feedback directly from the brain in real time.  As part of the strategic investment agreement, Glassview will outfit thousands of volunteers with Cogwear’s patented headbands in the coming 12-36 months.  The investment will also support the company’s research and commercialization in its core markets while expanding into this new segment.  In the year ahead, Cogwear will pursue FDA clearance for use of its headband as a clinical diagnostic tool for anxiety, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.   

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EpiVario is pioneering epigenetic therapeutics for modern-day treatments of neuropsychiatric disorders. The company develops pharmacotherapeutics that target a newly discovered epigenetic process in long-term memory. By targeting this activity to modulate stress- and drug-related memories, Epivario is creating a novel, highly effective approach to treating PTSD and substance use disorders.  The company was co-founded by two leaders in the field of neuroepigenetics – Shelley Berger, PhD, Daniel S. Och University Professor at UPenn and her former graduate student Philipp Mews, PhD, now an instructor in the neuroscience department of the Friedman Brain Institute at Mt. Sinai.  

EpiVario made a splash this summer as the company was recognized as a finalist for the Falling Walls’ Science Start-ups (Falling Walls Ventures) category. This category recognizes innovative start-ups that have translated breakthrough scientific thinking into promising business models. The company also highlighted preclinical research findings that could lead to a treatment approach for PTSD. In September, EpiVario announced it had been awarded a grant of nearly $260,000 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to advance research on its proprietary small molecule inhibitors designed to reduce alcohol craving responses and help people with alcohol use disorder prevent relapse.  

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Innervace, co-founded by D. Kacy Cullen, PhD, and Douglas Smith, MD, both faculty members in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Perelman School of Medicine, is a regenerative therapy company developing anatomically-inspired neural pathways to replace lost connections due to brain degeneration or injury. The lead program focuses on treating patients with Parkinson’s disease by reinnervating the dopamine circuit. In summer 2022, Innervace closed its $40M Series A financing  which will accelerate therapeutic development and timeline to impact for patients. This exciting financing milestone was also formally recognized by the Penn Center for Innovation (PCI) as Deal of the Year at the seventh annual Celebration of Innovation. 

Innervace is taking a radically different approach by attempting to replace the primary pathway lost in patients with Parkinson’s, thus reinnervating the dopamine circuit lost in this devastating disease, said Nader Halim, CEO Innervace. “We are extremely excited to build on the science developed in Kacy’s lab and translate it into a potentially new regenerative medicine therapy.” 

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Neuralert Technologies, co-founded by Steve Messe, MD, of the Perelman School of Medicine and James Weimer, PhD, previously with Penn Engineering, is developing a lightweight, non-invasive wristband device to automate stroke detection and alerting. The continuously wearable devices detect the onset of asymmetric movement, a hallmark indicator of stroke, in as little as 15 minutes. Faster detection of stroke symptoms speeds assessment and treatment, saving lives and resulting in better outcomes for patients. Led by CEO, Eric Corkhill, and joined by CTO, Det Ansinn, Neuralert announced achievement of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) status in fall 2022, completing the functional arc of stroke detection, data analysis, and medical staff alerting (Neuralert Attains MVP Status). A clinical trial will be underway in early 2023 to support the De Novo application to the FDA, and the company expects commercial launch of the device in early 2024.

Neuralert’s stroke detection device was recognized by Time as one of the Best Inventions 2022 (Best Inventions of 2022 | TIME), and the company was included as one of Philly’s top 20 standout tech companies of 2022 by Technical.ly Philly (RealLIST Startups). Eric Corkhill shared “This has been a remarkable year for Neuralert, and we are excited so many organizations have recognized the significant value a wearable stroke detection product can have. We are proud of the progress we made this past year in getting a device to market that can help so many people avoid the devastation caused when a stroke isn’t identified and treated in time”.

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ŌNŌCOR is developing essential safety tools and other facilitating technologies for the modern-day catheterization lab. The company was co-founded by Matthew J. Gillespie, M.D., Director of Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory and Interventional Cardiology, at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Robert C. Gorman, M.D., Director of Cardiac Surgical Research at UPenn School of Medicine, and Joseph H. Gorman III, M.D., Emeritus Professor of Surgery at UPenn School of Medicine. 

In May, the company received FDA Clearance for its novel endovascular retrieval technology. The ŌNŌ is designed to receive, align, compress, and remove suboptimal or embolized devices and other materials from the vascular system. In August, ŌNŌCOR announced the first-in-human use of the ŌNŌ endovascular retrieval system for removal of an intracardiac tumor.  Intracardiac tumors affect thousands of patients around the world annually, but prior to ŌNŌ, open-heart surgery was required for removal. “We are delighted that ŌNŌ was able to help the team at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles,” said Mark Piper, CEO of ŌNŌCOR. “ŌNŌ was designed to help safely remove material from the vascular system, so it’s rewarding to hear that the patient in Los Angeles has done well and recovered nicely from this procedure.” 

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Peroxitech, co-founded by Aron Fisher, MD, and Sheldon Feinstein, PhD, of the Perelman School of Medicine, is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of a therapeutic for treatment of acute lung injury. The discovery of a novel signaling pathway related to the oxidative injury cascade led to the identification of PIP-2, a peptide that has demonstrated broad protection and rescue in several preclinical models. In summer 2022, Peroxitech closed its $25M Series A financing  to advance therapeutic development through IND-enabling studies and into clinical development. 

Peroxitech’s CEO Thomas Han shared his excitement for the future, stating “The data generated to date for PIP-2 represents a potential breakthrough in the prevention and treatment of ALI”. In addition to the lead program, the company is evaluating PIP-2 for other high unmet need areas. Peroxitech was awarded an NIH STTR Phase I grant in spring 2022 to evaluate PIP-2 as a treatment to improve the storage and viability of donor lungs for transplantation.

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Serpex Medical is a company resulting from the acquisition of a business founded by Mark Yim, Asa Whitney Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the GRASP Laboratory. Serpex seeks to leverage the power of steerable instruments to enable greater precision and access to improve the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. 

In August, the company announced the FDA clearance of its Recon Steerable Sheath, a steerable endobronchial tool that offers articulation at the distal tip to enable physicians to access difficult-to-reach areas of the lung anatomy.  Shortly after its first clearance, Serpex announced the FDA Clearance of its Steerable Endobronchial Instrument Platform.  The Compass Steerable Needles are steerable biopsy needles that enable precise access to lung nodules in the intrapulmonary region.  Sasha Schrode, President and CEO of Serpex Medical, says the company is “excited to deliver another innovative product that empowers clinicians to more successfully diagnose lung cancer at an earlier stage.” 

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Vital Start Health, co-founded by John Chuo of the Perelman School of Medicine, is the developer of a maternal mental health platform designed for equitable, personalized, clinically guided care for mothers across the maternity continuum.  The company had a banner year, which included the launch of its first product, COURAGE, the first virtual reality enabled, telemedicine platform for maternal mental health and well-being.   

Vital Start was among the four companies selected to receive funding from Drexel University and the University City Science Center’s Raynier Seed Fund for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs.  The company received several awards throughout 2022, including Citizen Bank’s Small Business Champion Award, 1Philadelphia CBKVentures Pitch Competition winner, and Health & Human Services’ Racial Equity in Postpartum Challenge 2022 Phase 1 Award.  Reflecting on the successful year, Kirthika Parmeswaran, CEO of Vital Start said, “We are excited to close out 2022 with this momentum, as we continue to grow and impact reproductive and maternal mental health!” 

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Other Fundraising Highlights

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Exyn Technologies – Secured $35M Series B Funding

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PhylloPharma – Raised $1.0M from angel investors

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Axonova Medical – Awarded a NIH Phase I SBIR Grant

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FloBio – Awarded a NIH Phase II SBIR Grant

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Vasowatch – Awarded a NIH STTR Phase I Grant

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Linnaeus Therapeutics – Awarded a $4M Phase II Bridge SBIR Award by the National Cancer Institute of the NIH

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Ostiio – Awarded a NIH Phase I SBIR Grant

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New PCIV Supported Companies

Evinacel

Evinacel (George Xu UP-SOM-Path and Lab Medicine) is developing a variety of technologies that enable improved gamma delta T-cell therapy, a novel DR5 CAR construct, and an exosome therapy platform.

Fluorosurgical Biosciences

Fluorosurgical Biosciences (Jim Delikatny and Sofya Osharovich UP-SOM-Radiology)

Liquid BioDx

Liquid BioDx (Jay Dorsey and Gary Kao UP-SOM-Radiation Oncology) is developing a diagnostic blood test for sensitive detection of circulating tumor cells.

Neurostorative

Neurostorative (Justin Burrell and Kacy Cullen UP-SOM-Neurosurgery)

Paladai

Paladai (Eugene Ko UP-Dental) is developing a dental device that helps babies with cleft palate feed.

Paradigm Analytics

Paradigm Analytics (John Fischer UP-SOM-Surgery) is developing clinically-informed decision-based software to help with identification, stratification, and prioritization of patients for certain types of surgical procedures.

Stage One Immunotherapeutics

Stage One Immunotherapeutics (Malay Haldar UP-SOM-Path and Lab Medicine) is developing small molecules that target retinoic acid signaling pathway to treat solid tumors.

Ventru

Ventru (Rachel Blue and Michael Spadola, PSOM) aims to improve the safety and efficacy of neurosurgical procedures through surgical instrument innovation, currently focusing on improving the accuracy of placing ventricular drains in the brain.

Venture WarmUP

At the beginning of 2022 PCI Ventures launched Venture WarmUP, a new PCI program designed to assist faculty prior to starting a company as they explore different options for technology development and commercialization. Program participants may choose to work with PCI to pursue licensing or R&D alliance opportunities, start a company through PCI Ventures, start a company on their own (or with an outside partner), or simply continue with additional research. The program is already quite popular as evidenced by the following participant projects:

  • ACE Genomics (Rahul Kohli SOM-Medicine) is developing novel enzymes to assess epigenetic modifications to allow for advanced research tools and diagnostics.
  • Cesar de la Fuente (SEAS-Bioengineering) AI platform for discovery antimicrobial or antibiotic compounds.
  • Kurt Brunden & Garret Gibbons (SOM-Pathology) targeting tau for alzheimers via microtubule stabilizer tech and tau mAB tech.
  • Mike Mitchell (SEAS-Bioengineering) is developing a lipid nanoparticle screening platform that utilizes a barcode technology.
  • PICI TCR mKRAS (Beatriz Carreno, Gerald Linette, Bob Vonderheide, Adham Bear SOM) are developing novel TCR therapies to treat mutated KRAS tumors.

PCIV Luminaries

Brian Biddulph-Krentar

Brian Biddulph-Krentar is the CEO of SchoolSims, a Saas company that produces software simulations designed to prepare and develop current and future school staff. In 2019, after selling his last software company, Brian was connected to SchoolSims founder, Ken Spero. As a founder himself, Brian was impressed with Ken’s passion and the two agreed to partner on growing the startup.

Brian initially came on board as the Chief Strategy Officer, his experience in implementing product, marketing and sales playbooks aligned well with Ken’s vision. That vision is, “to make a difference in how school leaders and teachers are prepared to succeed in challenging jobs. SchoolSims allows these stakeholders to practice in a safe yet realistic environment to improve decision-making and judgment before facing real challenges.” Since Brian started at the company, SchoolSims has doubled its simulation library, allowing the company to move into new areas such as simulations for teachers and counselors. By adding these areas, the company has been able to expand its total addressable market opportunity. In 2022 Brian moved into his role as CEO, now he runs the business and ensures their growth goals continue to align with Ken’s vision for company. Brian says it makes for a great partnership and splitting of responsibilities. He finds managing his team the most rewarding aspect of being a CEO. According to Brain, “being honest and bringing your team along for the ride is essential in a startup company.”

Mike Mitchell, PhD

 

The Team

Partners

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