Warnock, George Petrocheilos, David Oros and Jacob Vogelstein founded the Camden Partners Exelixis Fund. Helping startups from the region’s research institutions such as Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland Baltimore, UMBC and Fort Meade is a key focus of the fund.
“We know we’ll have a direct impact on Baltimore and Maryland and the ecosystem,” Petrocheilos said.
Along with the $500,000 investment in Sisu, the fund also recently invested $250,000 in Ashvattha Therapeutics, which lists an office at the address of Johns Hopkins FastForward East, and $400,000 in Orpheris, a spinout of that company.
The fund, which is expected to close at the end of the year, is set to focus on areas where the partners (and plenty of others) see the region’s strengths. These areas include biomedical and digital tech companies in fields like cybersecurity, medical devices, surgical robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, Petrocheilos said.
The thread that runs through each is a desire for intellectual property, and a connection to the area’s universities.
Maryland as a whole gets lots of research funding, but hasn’t focused as much on turning those creations into companies. Part of that is due to a shortage of resources. The entrepreneurship pushes at Baltimore institutions are signs of growing interest in creating a systematic approach to commercializing university research, but leaders acknowledge there is still work to do.
One near-constant lament is a need for more early stage funding, which is one place where the Exelixis Fund is looking to step in.
“It was clear that there was a need for permanent source of seed-stage capital in the region,” Vogelstein said.
Oros, a longtime entrepreneur who founded Aether Systems, and Vogelstein saw that need in the fund Gamma3. Now they are looking to do it with an institutional partner with Camden Partners, which can provide additional resources.
The fund’s board of directors includes Nobel Prize–winning astrophysicist Adam Reiss, former director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, Geoffrey Ling, Sourcefire and Riverbed Technologies cofounder Wayne Jackson and others. These experts can help to advise the startups, as well as the fund, Petrocheilos said.