Early-stage life science companies have long grumbled about the ability to secure financing and those grumbles have only grown louder given the market conditions that have dried up many financing options.

The state of North Carolina will now provide another way for life science companies to slake their thirst for capital. State Treasurer Janet Cowell will invest up to $35 million from the state’s pension fund to support early-stage life science companies in the state. Cowell formally announced the “Accelerator” at the Southeast BIO Investor Forum in Durham on Thursday.

(WRAL Tech Wire reported the launch of the fund on Wednesday. Read details here.)

“The Accelerator is designed not only to provide capital but also to create partnerships and leverage additional resources to support some of the most enterprising thinkers and businesses in the state,” Cowell said.

The Accelerator is part of of the treasurer’s NC Innovation Fund. The $232 million fund launched in March 2010. It was created to help North Carolina-based businesses expand their operations and create new jobs. Cowell’s office says that since the Innovation Fund’s launch, it has committed $97.5 million to companies in a manufacturing, software and financial services among other industries.

The Accelerator will focus on life science investments. Cowell said the investments will generate returns for the state’s pension fund while also early-stage life science firms in North Carolina.

Cowell said the fund will promote collaboration among North Carolina universities, research institutions and companies in developming new drugs and medical devices. The Accelerator has committed funds to one venture capital firm so far — Durham-based Hatteras Venture Partners. That investment is supporting Hatteras Discovery, the part of the firm’s fourth fund launched this year devoted to seed-stage investments.

The fourth fund has a $125 million target and Christy Shaffer, managing director of Hatteras Discovery, has said that the Hatteras Discovery portion will comprise up to 20 percent of the fund. Hatteras Discovery will support companies working to “rapidly move new ideas to proof of concept.”

The Accelerator is expected to make additional commitments though no Cowell offered no details.

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