21 Aug Wisconsin start up Primorigen Biosciences corrals out-of-state investment
Madison, Wis. – Wisconsin-based high-tech startup and spin-off companies are gaining attention from some relatively far-flung investors. The most recent example of this is Primorigen Biosciences LLC, a company that is developing laboratory tools for analysis of cellular reprogramming and differentiation.
Primorigen, a developer of protein targets, quantitative microarrays, and related products, will use a pair of investments totaling $2.45 million to commercialize new cell therapy technologies that could be used to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Primorigen’s commercialization of the technology, invented by Baton-Rouge-based NuPotential, will funnel fees and royalties into NuPotential’s continuing research operations.
Part of the investment comes from Louisiana Fund 1, a $27 million organization first launched in 2004 with $10 million from the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana. A managing partner there, Joe Lovett, said the decision to invest in Primorigen was attributable to the company’s solid management team.
Another $1.45 million will come from an investment company outside of Louisiana. Primorigen’s president, Chuck Oehler, and CEO Tom Burke indicated in telephone conversations and e-mail correspondences that they would release more specific information about the company and financing at a later date.
Investments in Wisconsin
“Investors outside of Wisconsin are becoming much more aware of our tech-based startups,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, the science and technology advisory body to Gov. Jim Doyle and the Wisconsin Legislature.
Still pointed out in that in addition to Primorigen, recent deals since late 2005 involving out-of-state investors have included NimbleGen Systems, Inc., a microarray supplier established in 1999; Bellbrook Labs, a screening assay producer founded in 2002; Imago Scientific Instruments, a nanoscale instument developer launched the same year; Guild.com, an online art dealership site launched in 1999; Orion Energy Systems, a provider of industrial lighting solutions; and Mithridion, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused on Alzheimer’s disease founded in 2004.
In June, when Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association speaking at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Milwaukee, noted that Wisconsin was seeing more out-of-state activity.
In the most recent 12 quarters, according to Heesen, investments in Wisconsin came from the New York Metro area (15 percent of the total), the South Central part of the United States (11 percent), Silicon Valley (10 percent), New England (8 percent) and Texas (7 percent). That’s slightly more than half of the total venture capital invested in Wisconsin for those quarters; the rest came from Wisconsin and the rest of the Midwest.
“I’m not surprised that Wisconsin is attracting more out-of-state investment,” Still said. “We have great technology here across a number of platforms, from biotech to medical devices, from information technology to nanotechnology, and we’re doing a much better job of telling our story. Once investors learn about what deals are available in Wisconsin, investors quite naturally want to take a look.”
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