LAFAYETTE, NY: Today, Ichor Therapeutics, a biotechnology company that develops therapeutic interventions for age-associated disease, announced the formation of Grapeseed.Bio, a life science strategic fund and accelerator program.
Through this program, life science entrepreneurs receive up to $100k in seed funding, technical training, full access to Ichor’s research laboratory, and mentorship in exchange for equity.
“CenterState CEO and the City of Syracuse have done a great job in establishing initiatives to support entrepreneurship and innovation,” stated Kelsey Moody, CEO at Ichor Therapeutics and Managing Partner of Grapeseed.Bio. “Direct funding vehicles like Grants for Growth and the TC Growth Fund, combined with mentors and a physical facility at the Tech Garden, have cultivated many promising companies in the software and tech sectors. We want to do the same in the life sciences.”
Ichor Therapeutics is arguably the most successful life science start-up in Central New York, having raised millions to support various translational research programs since its founding in 2013. It continues to double in size annually.
There is a substantial amount of intellectual capital among the local academic community. SUNY Upstate Medical University, SUNY ESF, Syracuse University, and Cornell all have strong programs in the life sciences.
Aaron Wolfe, COO at Ichor Therapeutics and Managing Partner of Grapeseed.Bio, noted, “Tenure track faculty positions are nearly impossible to land, and high paying industry jobs require relocation to Boston or Silicon Valley where cost of living is outrageous. For people who are entrepreneurial and want to stay local, we can offer a different path.”
Ichor Therapeutics has earmarked $1 million in funding for the program.
Paramount to the Grapeseed.Bio ethos is a focus on speed, clarity, and transparency. Following the successful incubator models of Y combinator and IndieBio, Grapeseed.Bio boasts a rapid review process of only 8 weeks, actionable feedback for all applicants, and standardized term sheets and legal documentation.
David Reed, of Reed Business Law, is legal adviser for the program. “It makes no sense for a start-up company to spend 10% or more of its raise on legal fees for what should be cookie cutter incorporation documents and straight forward, reasonable term sheets. By standardizing all of this up front we are able to reduce administrative overhead and make cash available as soon as the project is approved.”
Grapeseed.Bio is a strategic play for Ichor Therapeutics. As more employees join the ranks, fighting regression towards the mean becomes a constant struggle. Likewise, as the research programs of growth companies mature, there is a need to drive innovation to fill the pipeline.
“An accelerator program offers a platform for us to evaluate both people and projects, while at the same supporting entrepreneurship and economic development in the region,” Moody said. “In the life sciences projects fail, and they fail more often than not. If all we achieve here is a tool for recruiting gritty, self-driven scientists into our company, that is a good use of our capital. However, I have a feeling we are going to find much more than that.”
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