The first Southeast Venture Philanthropy Summit will bring some 200 leaders of regional life science companies and national disease foundations to Chapel Hill April 3 and 4 to explore alliances bearing new opportunities.

The Summit will connect company leaders, academic researchers, funding specialists and executives from 30 foundations, including the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundations and other major philanthropic groups targeting a wide range of diseases and conditions.

The Summit has been organized by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in conjunction with BioFlorida, Georgia Bio, NCBIO, Southeast BIO and Virginia Bio. They were aided by a steering committee including members of those organizations plus leaders from the venture philanthropy, venture capital and academic communities.

Foundation Funding Opens New Options

“Life science companies and academic researchers often indicate that their greatest challenge is access to funding,” said Peter Ginsberg, vice president of Business and Technology Development at NCBiotech.

“Foundation funding, or venture philanthropy, has increased in terms of the breadth of funding options available and the size of the grants and investments these organizations are making. However, few life science companies or academic institutions in the Southeast have benefited from venture philanthropy.”

Venture capital flows far more freely in states such as California and Massachusetts. North Carolina and other states in the Southeast have fewer sources of money to help incubate and expand the hundreds of entrepreneurial life science start-ups in the region. Many of these companies are working to commercialize discoveries from academic and corporate labs that could help disease foundations in their struggle to advance new therapies — and possibly even cures.

Federal and state-funded grants and loans, such as those to North Carolina researchers from NCBiotech, help many discoveries through early survival. But the supply of money for those programs is far below the need.

NCBiotech Forum Was Proof of Concept

Ginsberg was encouraged to organize this regional Summit after 170 participants crowded into an NCBiotech forum he led that featured four venture philanthropy executives.

The Southeast Venture Philanthropy Summit will build on that interest with a full-day conference preceded by a reception the evening before, both in Chapel Hill. Discounted advance registration runs through April 1, space permitting.

Foundation funding benefits extend well beyond the dollars involved, said Ginsberg. “Besides money, recipients also receive access to thought leaders, partners and patients, as well as a ‘stamp of approval’ from a well-recognized body of experts.”

Many life science entrepreneurs and academic scientists in the Southeast are unaware of this growing funding opportunity, he added. And others are not familiar with the best ways to attract foundation funding. The Summit is also designed to address those gaps.

(C) NC Biotech Center