By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
i2E recently led a $1.84 million investment round in Moleculera Labs Inc. with an investment of $700,000 through the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund. The balance came from SeedStep Angels and other angel investor groups.
There are important messages here.
First, we do have a continuum of investment capital in Oklahoma for early stage companies.
We may not have much venture capital here, but we’ve figured out a plan B that works — state-appropriated investment capital coupled with the active participation of SeedStep Angels, our own homegrown angel group, and syndication with other angel investors to bring their investment dollars into our state. This deal included an angel group from St. Louis and individual angel investors from Austin, Texas.
We are able to syndicate because of SeedStep Angels’ credibility in the national angel community. These angels have invested more than $3.7 million in entrepreneurial ventures since the group was founded by i2E in 2009.
Second, Oklahoma is home to breakthrough biotechnology.
The Cunningham Panel, resulting from the outstanding research by Dr. Madeline Cunningham, professor at the University of Oklahoma and co-founder of Moleculera, predicts a patient’s likelihood of having Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococci (PANDAS), an acute-onset neurological disorder of OCD and motor tics that is often associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
For the first time, this breakthrough test aids physicians in diagnosing PANDAS, which then can lead to appropriate treatment and improved outcomes for children and their families.
“You can never quite imagine the severity of the situation until you talk with the parents, with them,” Dr. Craig Shimasaki, Moleculera co-founder and CEO, told me. “These families are desperately seeking answers and help for their children. There are about 2 million to 3 million children in the U.S. suffering from OCD and motor tics combined with other neuropsychiatric conditions, and it is possible that many of these children could be suffering from PANS/PANDAS, which can be treated.”
Third, we have modeled a very efficient and effective method for transferring biotechnology innovation from the lab to the market place. The path that Moleculera followed to commercialize the technology was to exclusively license the technology and lease space and personnel from the University of Oklahoma until they could raise enough capital to hire full-time employees.
Moleculera is Oklahoma’s proof positive that it is possible for a biotechnology business founded in 2011 to open its doors to paying customers in less than two years and to ramp up to serving hundreds of physicians and their patients six months after that.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
Did You Know? The largest share of Oklahoma’s bioscience patents over the last six years was in biochemistry, drugs and pharmaceuticals, and surgical and medical instruments. SOURCE: OKBio