PCIV Spotlight

The PCI Ventures 2021 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

2021 Statistics

73

Active Companies

13

new companies

6

executives hired

292

Current Company Team Members

>$31m

Raised by 18 PCIV Supported Companies

$376k

TOWARDS SPONSORED RESEARCH CONDUCTED AT PENN

Overall Statistics

11

Years in Operation

73

COMPANIES HAVE RECEIVED FUNDING

>$349m

In cumulative funds raised

>$25m

TOWARDS SPONSORED RESEARCH CONDUCTED AT PENN

67

UNIQUE SOURCES OF FUNDING

5

Company Exits

Highlights

Portfolio Highlights

Carisma Therapeutics co-founded by Michael Klichinsky, MD, PhD, Vice President of Research and Discovery 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. The UPstart portfolio company had a successful year, highlighted by the second closing of its Series B financing and in March, the dosing of their first patient in a landmark clinical study evaluating engineered macrophages in humans.

Michael Klichinksy was also named one of Endpoints News 20 under 40 Next Gen Biotech Leaders.  Michael shared the announcement on LinkedIn adding, “I am honored to be included alongside my biotech peers and look forward to continuing to drive the CAR-M technology forward at Carisma Therapeutics.”

The company is hopeful that CAR-macrophages, or as they call them CAR-M, will expand the benefits of cell therapy into disease indications where CAR-T has consistently failed.

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Cogwear 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, is a wearable device company that is creating a clinical-grade, cognitive wearable for active situations and powered by nanotechnology sensors, machine learning, and breakthrough neuroscientific research. In August, the company was, awarded a Small Business Innovation Research Program grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support the development of Cogwear’s electroencephalography (EEG) sensors.

In early December, the company announced a strategic partnership with Rezon, a UK-based company that creates athletic wearables designed to protect the brain from impacts to the head during sports. Together, Cogwear and Rezon will design a high-performance, digitally enabled athletic headband which will provide brain protection as well as real-time analytics. Cogwear’s CEO David Yonce shared his excitement stating, “The mind is the key to success on and off the field, so we are excited to partner with Rezon to help athletes assess their cognitive health anywhere anytime.”

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Exyn Technologies, co-founded by Vijay Kumar, PhD, Dean of the Penn School of Engineering and Applied Science, is developing robot systems to autonomously navigate and collect data where maps and GPS do not exist. In the spring of 2021, Exyn proudly announced that their drones achieved Level 4A autonomy, which the company considers the highest level of aerial autonomy reached within the industry.  The company closed out the year with another exciting announcement that they received ISO 9001 certification.

Exyn shared that the certification, which is internationally recognized, distinguishes businesses with thoroughly tested and audited management systems that meet defined standards in areas such as safety, quality, and sustainability.  Nader Elm, CEO of Exyn further remarked tthat the company looks forward to new partnerships in 2022 and beyond.

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Linnaeus Therapeutics, Inc. (Linnaeus), co-founded by Christopher Natale, PhD, Vice President of Research at Linnaeus and Todd Ridky, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Dermatology at Penn School of Medicine, is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of novel small-molecule oncology therapeutics.  The company attended the 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting last summer and shared positive clinical data from its phase 1 dose-escalation study of LNS8801 as a monotherapy and in combination with pembrolizumab.

In June, Linnaeus announced the expansion of its ongoing clinical collaboration with Merck. Patrick Mooney, MD, CEO of Linnaeus noted “based on the encouraging signals [they] have seen so far in the advanced cancer patients treated with the combination of LNS8801 and KEYTRUDA as well as LNS8801 as monotherapy, [they] are optimistic that the combination of LNS8801 and KEYTRUDA will provide meaningful benefit to this patient population.”

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Neuralert Technologies, an UPstart portfolio company co-founded by Steve Messe, MD, of the Perelman School of Medicine and James Weimer, PhD, of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, is a medical device company solving the problem of late stroke detection. Their non-invasive, wearable wristbands continually monitor the onset of arm weakness- a hallmark sign of stroke- to enable rapid detection of stroke by clinicians and caregivers. By detecting strokes 10X faster than manual detection processes, Neuralert is reducing the critical time-to-treatment which saves lives and lowers healthcare costs. In summer 2021, the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted the Neuralert Monitor designation as a Breakthrough Device!

Eric Corkhill, CEO said that the “FDA granting Neuralert Breakthrough Device designation is a major milestone in our efforts to bring this valuable and revolutionary technology to market.” The company also earned a spot in three local accelerators in 2021, including the Science Center Launch Lane Accelerator, the Bucks Built Accelerator and the NextFab Hardware Startup Accelerator Program, as well as with StartUp Health, which focuses on Health Moonshots. Neuralert continues to accelerate their product development efforts with support from these organizations and angel investors, and anticipates bringing their product to market in 2023.

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Nia Therapeutics, co-founded by Michael Kahana, PhD, Professor of Psychology in the School of Arts & Sciences and Dan Rizzuto, PhD, continues to develop responsive neurostimulation therapies for patients with dementia and other memory disorders. In 2021, Nia received a $1M non-dilutive subcontract sponsored by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command and awarded through the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium.  The funding is being applied towards completion of the implantable form factor prototype and supporting expansion of the team.

Nia successfully graduated from the prestigious accelerator program, Creative Destruction Labs (CDL), and was selected to participate in the CDL Super Session which highlights the best of the CDL cohort companies around the world.  To round out its year of success, Nia’s Co-founder and CEO Dan Rizzuto was named winner of the 2021 MedCity INVEST Precision Medicine startup pitch contest, life science track.

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Quantaras, co-founded by Jay Udupa, PhD, and Drew Torigian, MD, both faculty members in the Department of Radiology at Perelman School of Medicine, is an UPstart portfolio company formerly known as Quantitative Radiology Solutions.  The company personalizes cancer treatment decisions through body wide analysis of medical images.  In the spring of 2021, the company received FDA clearance for its auto-contouring software after a successful clinical evaluation across four major academic medical centers as part of a Phase II STTR grant award from the National Cancer Institute.

“Our rebranding and launch of Quantaras Contour Companion continues our mission to use body wide analysis of medical images to personalize cancer treatment decisions,” stated Joe Camaratta, President & CEO of Quantaras. “We look forward to reducing contouring time, so that physicians can focus on treatment optimization.”

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Vetigenics, co-founded by Nicola Mason BVetMed, PhD of the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine and Don Siegel, MD, PhD, of the Perelman School of Medicine, is an animal health biopharmaceutical company committed to improving the health of companion animals through the development of species-specific, safe and effective antibody-based immunotherapies to treat veterinary cancers and other chronic diseases. The company achieved numerous milestones in 2021 with leadership from CEO and co-founder Adriann Sax.

Vetigenics was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research grant, extended its collaborative discovery partnership with Merck Animal Health, and recently published the in vitro and in vivo results of their lead product development program.  The impressive company progress was formally recognized by the Penn Center for Innovation (PCI) as Vetigenics was named PCI’s Startup of the Year at the sixth annual Celebration of Innovation.

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Fundraising Highlights

Forsagen – Awarded a $300K NIH SBIR Phase I Grant

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Peroxitech – Closed $1.4M Seed Round

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EpiVario- Closed Follow-On $278K Seed Round

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EnaChip – First Close of their Series B

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Mechano

Mechano Therapeutics – Awarded an ON/AOSSM/AANA Pilot Grant Award

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Recupero Robotics – Awarded an NIH STTR Phase I Grant

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Ostiio – Awarded an SBIR Phase I Grant & Michigan Innovation Grant

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Veltion Therapeutics – Awarded an SBIR Phase I Grant

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Vital Start Health – Closed $175K Pre-Seed Round from Angel Investors

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New PCIV Supported Companies

AltruMed

Focusing on medical technologies in the harm reduction space and developing an armband that detects an opioid overdose and automatically injects the antidote.

Elais Therapeutics

Developing small molecules to treat KRAS mutant lung cancer.

EmboVent

Removing the embolic load from the heart during open cardiac surgery with a novel heart vent catheter.

FluidiSpec

Developing microfluidic and nanofluidic systems for protein and metabolite diagnostics.

Forsagen

Developing biomaterial-directed tissue sealing approaches for the long-term health and preservation of orthopedic tissues.

LEDEN

Developing a self-powered tissue healing dental implant system to treat and prevent peri-implant diseases.

Mentalic Labs

Expert translation of lab-tested protocols into field-verified programs to uncover novel insights for coaches and players that are statistically proven to make or break team synchronicity and success.

Rafias

Novel therapeutics to treat cocaine addiction and other substance abuse disorders.

TheraVal

A novel liver-derived organoid platform that enables the company to develop and validate potential therapeutics for NASH and other hepatic diseases.

Vasowatch

Early postpartum hemorrhage detector device to make childbirth safer for women.

Versatilis

DOTA-based universal immune receptor for cancer cell therapy.

VitalCore

Providing healthcare providers with a single centralized dashboard for all HL7 medical device data using existing network infrastructure which enables real-time troubleshooting of EHR data loss issues.

PCIV Luminaries

Adriann Sax

Adriann Sax is the CEO of Vetigenics, an animal health biotech company committed to developing “best in class” novel antibody-based immunotherapies to treat cancer and chronic diseases of pets. When Adriann met Vetigenics founders Nicola Mason BVetMD, PhD and Donald Siegel MD, PhD of the Perelman School of Medicine, she knew it was the right fit. The opportunity to pair her 25+ years in biopharma and education in animal health with their scientific expertise was a perfect match to execute on the company’s exciting vision!

Adriann loves to build effective teams with diverse functional expertise who are committed to achieving the company’s vision and willing to jump in to solve problems. Moreover, her greatest satisfaction, and what drew her to the role of CEO, is sharing the team’s continued progress and success while learning something new every day.

“Our greatest reward is finding better, safer therapies for our “best friends” to enhance and extend their lives,” Adriann shared, “… and in doing so we can learn new and innovative ways of advancing treatments for serious diseases like cancer for the human parents that love them.”

Read more about Vetigenics’ accomplishments in 2021 in their Highlight

Dan Rizzuto, PhD

Dr. Dan Rizzuto always had a professional dream of bringing neurotechnology innovations to patients. After years of collaborating with Dr. Michael Kahana, Professor of Psychology in the School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, the team recognized that a novel technology they were developing had the potential to treat memory loss, and so they co-founded Nia Therapeutics to bring this treatment to patients.

Nia is developing first-in-class therapeutic devices to restore memory after brain injury and/or degenerative disease. As CEO, Dan has led the Nia team to complete the design phase of their commercial neurostimulation platform, which includes an implant for sensing and stimulating the brain, an earpiece for controlling therapy delivery, and a cloud-based AI system for personalizing the therapy for each patient.

Dan is passionate about the future of neurotechnology and believes “that brain sensing, and stimulation technologies can be used to rehabilitate our bodies and minds, enhance our physical and mental capabilities, and will ultimately transform our understanding of what it means to be human.” As for Nia’s future, the next phase of the company’s development is focused on setting up manufacturing and conducting preclinical studies to demonstrate safety before seeking FDA approval to begin their first clinical trial.

Read more about Nia’s accomplishments in 2021 in their Highlight

The Team

Partners

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