November 10, 2016
The Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Engineering and Fast Forward Medical Innovation at the Medical School have announced the Monroe-Brown Seed Fund has made its inaugural investment of $400,000 in two University of Michigan biomedical startups: Genomenon Inc. and Brio Device LLC.
The Monroe-Brown Seed Fund invests in biomedical startup companies with U-M licensed intellectual property in the domain of therapeutics, devices, diagnostics or health information technology.
The fund bridges the gap between existing university translational programs and venture capital. A gift from the Monroe-Brown Foundation established the fund in April.
The fund is an example of the systematic programming led by CFE and FFMI to translate more U-M research into impactful companies. It represents the final piece needed to support product development to the point of either follow-on funding by private sources or partnering or acquisition by a larger corporation.
The $250,000 investment in Genomenon, a software-as-a-service company empowering personalized medicine, and $150,000 in Brio Device, a medical device company for endotracheal intubation, will enable the companies to bring their products to commercial realization.
"Both Genomenon and Brio are terrific first companies to represent the Monroe-Brown Seed Fund," said David Gregorka, Baird Capital consultant and member of the advisory board for the fund.
"Since both are on the mature end of the fund's target companies, they are poised to demonstrate results more quickly. Hopefully, positive results will pave the way for future gifts to the university to support similar types of investment."
Genomenon's software simplifies genome interpretation to improve diagnostic accuracy in clinical practice and speed genetic discoveries in research laboratories. The investment builds upon Genomenon's funding from the Michigan Investments in New Technology Startups program.
Genomenon is led by CEO Mike Klein and alumnus Dr. Mark J. Kiel, chief science officer and vice president of product strategy. Recently, Genomenon won three business challenge competitions following its Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization award funding, most recently finishing a $1.8 million seed extension round.
"The Monroe-Brown Seed Fund has acted as a catalyst to help us successfully reach our funding goal," said Klein. "By having the University of Michigan on board, it provides credibility to the company and has given us the runway to make our product a commercial success."
Brio Device was founded by a team of women with experiences across multiple disciplines. CEO and alumna Hannah Hensel has partnered with Laura McCormick and Dr. Sabina Siddiqui to produce commercialized airway devices for endotracheal intubation.
Failed intubation leads to 18,000 trauma-related deaths each year that are entirely preventable using Brio's insertion stylets. These devices minimize reliance on clinician skill for success and are designed to assist users in locating the trachea and maneuvering the endotracheal tube through the mouth, throat and airway.
"The Monroe-Brown Seed Fund investment allows our company to complete the production and final testing of our first product, the INT Navigator, a life-saving device used for intubation and airway management," said Hensel.
"The investment will also contribute to the product launch and commercialization as early as this spring. With these funds, Brio has been able to remain headquartered in Ann Arbor and expand its staff locally."
Brio's receipt of funding from the Monroe-Brown Seed Fund follows a National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research grant extension round and $50,000 investment from the First Step Fund.