UAVenture Capital Fund LLC, the Tucson-based early-stage capital fund dedicated to the commercialization of University of Arizona science and technology, has announced its first three portfolio investments.
Each of the three has a strong connection to the UA. Codelucida and Regulonix were formed to commercialize inventions stemming from UA research in engineering and medicine, respectively. The third was started by a graduate of the Eller College of Management.
In the first two cases, UA faculty inventors collaborated extensively with Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the UA that commercializes inventions stemming from research, to protect the University's intellectual property and license it to the respective companies.
Codelucida is a UA startup commercializing error-correction technology for data storage and communications. The technology was jointly developed during the doctoral studies of co-founder and CEO Shiva Planjery, along with his co-founders and doctoral advisers Bane Vasic, a UA professor of electrical and computer engineering, and David Declercq.
Regulonix is commercializing non-opioid pain drug candidates developed in the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. Rajesh Khanna, professor of pharmacology, one of the technology's inventors, co-founded the company and is serving as its chief scientific officer. Michael Sember, the TLA mentor-in-residence who advised the team throughout the commercialization process, is serving as CEO. Co-inventors also include May Khanna, assistant professor of pharmacology, and Vijay Gokhale, senior research scientist at the UA's BIO5 Institute.
The third company receiving funding is Post.Bid.Ship, which is bringing to market an application that eliminates wasted space on shipping trucks by automating the process of identifying and locating available haulers and then matching them to shippers. Jarret Hamstreet and Micky Thompson, graduates of the Eller College of Management MBA program, founded the company.
UAVenture Capital was formed in early 2018 following the successful commercialization and sale of Sinfonía HealthCare Corp. and its wholly-owned subsidiary SinfoníaRx Inc. in 2017. SinfoníaRx, a medication review company that was spun out of the UA College of Pharmacy in 2013 with help from TLA, was sold to Tabula Rasa HealthCare in September 2017. The merger transaction was selected as the 2017 Deal of the Year by the Arizona chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth.
Fletcher McCusker and Michael Deitch — CEO and CFO, respectively, and founders of Sinfonía HealthCare — formed an early-stage capital fund following the sale of the company.
"Today, the UAVC Fund has announced investments in three UA-related companies that each offer cutting-edge science or technology capable of having an enormous impact in the world," McCusker said. "We are proud to be part of the legacy being established by President Robert C. Robbins, Tech Launch Arizona, and our brilliant scientists, inventors and students associated with the UA."
"These are just a few of the numerous technological innovations coming from and/or related to the University of Arizona," McCusker continued. "We expect to fund many additional talented inventors and worthwhile companies in an effort to advance UA-related science and enterprises."
"Everyone here at the UA is so grateful for Fletcher McCusker's longstanding partnership," Robbins said. "He has been a force for positive change in southern Arizona's business community for many years, and we look forward to seeing how he will lead UAVenture in fostering a new era of innovation for our region."
According to Doug Hockstad, assistant vice president of TLA, access to capital such as that being provided by the UAVenture Capital Fund will be an essential element as the regional innovation ecosystem continues to develop.
"Tucson is fortunate to have an active angel group in the Desert Angels," Hockstad said, "and with the addition of the UAVenture Capital Fund and these first investments, our community is taking the next steps in growing a more vibrant, impactful ecosystem."