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Venture Fund to Back Covid-19 Start-Ups

Caspr Biotech

Caspr Biotech team (IndieBio)

24 Mar. 2020. A life science incubator company plans to fund eight start-up enterprises developing diagnostics, vaccines, or treatments for the Covid-19 pandemic. IndieBio, a new business accelerator and a division of venture investor SOSV, is calling for applications for its training programs from companies develop novel coronavirus or Covid-19 solutions, at its San Francisco and New York City sites.

IndieBio offers $250,000 in seed capital, mentors, and lab space to new companies developing life science-based products or services. Participants in IndieBio accelerators are trained to deliver product prototypes into the hands of advisers and customers, and gain feedback withing four months. In addition, says IndieBio, participants have access to scientific and business expertise designed to push new entrepreneurs out of their comfort zones to achieve success in business skills such as marketing and finance.

For its coronavirus initiative, IndieBio is offering its accelerator program to life science start-ups developing Covid-19 pandemic solutions. Diagnostics candidates should propose products and services that reduce the cost and time or improve scale-up of viral detection, better predict negative outcomes of diagnostics, or devise better tests of blood serum for antibodies.

New companies in the business of preventing disease should outline plans for better vaccine technologies or formulations, block viral transmissions from animals to humans, or improve sterilization of food, water, and structures. Enterprises developing treatments should address issues such as inflammation in Covid-19 patients, improvements in lung functions, or therapies that target damage to the nervous system or vital, but difficult to treat organs, such as the liver.

IndieBio says applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, but the first training program is expected to begin on 4 May at its main site in San Francisco, as well at its New York City location at Rockefeller University, scheduled to open next month. The company says its sites are considered essential businesses because of their role in the fight against Covid-19, but teleconferencing will be accommodated as needed.

“The coronavirus pandemic is a wake-up call,” says Po Bronson a partner at IndieBio in a company statement released through PR Newswire. “Our health care system has long under-invested in solutions for a pandemic, even though every expert has predicted we were at ever-increasing risk of one. There are so many new tools and approaches developed in biotech that can be applied here.”

IndieBio says its parent company SOSV is financing 12 start-ups developing diagnostics, treatments, materials, or supplies that can be used in the fight against Covid-19. One of its portfolio enterprises in Caspr Biotech, a two year-old company developing diagnostics based on the gene editing technology Crispr.

Caspr Biotech, based at IndieBio in San Francisco and Buenos Aires, Argentina, uses Crispr — short for cumulative regularly interspaced short palyndromic repeats — with the efficient and compact enzyme cas12, which makes possible detection from minute samples of DNA or RNA. The company is developing a pocket-sized point-of-care Covid-19 detection device with analysis performed on a smartphone.

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