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Mayo fund invested in four companies

By Jeff Kiger

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Mayo Clinic knows where it wants to invest ... in Mayo Clinic.

Actually, the money is not invested directly in Mayo Clinic, but in Mayo’s ideas, medical devices, drugs, tests and patents.

In mid-2008, the clinic launched the $10 million Mayo Medical Ventures Fund II to further the work of its predecessor MMV I. The fund develops joint investments with health care venture capital firms to provide financing of between $250,000 to $500,000 for companies based on Mayo creations or research.

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So far this fund has financed four companies, starting with Nevro Corp. last year. Nevro is creating implantable devices to help manage chronic pain.

It also has financially fed Torax Medical Inc., a medical device firm in Minneapolis. Torax was founded in 2003 with help from Mayo and it is working on a device to control acid reflux.

The venture fund is Mayo’s later-stage tool for investment help. The first step is usually taken by the Innovation Loan Program, run by the Office of Intellectual Property. Mayo says this office has generated more than $115 million in the last 23 years for patient care, education and research.

The Innovation Loan focuses on "ideas that fall outside typical funding options," according to Mayo’s definition. It provides up to $200,000 loans per qualifying idea. That money is usually earmarked for making prototypes, early research and things like pre-clinical studies.

San Francisco-based Nile Therapeutics is one company that has made use of this program. It is based on the work of Dr. John Burnett, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist. He works with peptides in the heart and combines them with ones from the green mamba snake.

A total of 37 projects have been given such loans, and repayment is made once income starts rolling in. Mayo Clinic says 5 percent of the Office of Intellectual Property’s licensing revenue is invested in this program.

In between this loan program and the MMV II funding is the President’s Translation Fund.

Its goal, says Mayo, is to provide money "to span the funding gap between basic and translational research and to advance discoveries from ideas to technologies that improve patient care."

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The bridge fund was created by Mayo President and CEO Dr. Denis Cortese. Since it was launched in 2005, this fund has financed 25 Mayo Clinic technologies.

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