Venture Philanthropy is a huge opportunity within the red hot life sciences community in North Carolina and throughout the Southas an alternative source of capital.

Last week, Executive Search Firm Carlyle and Conlan, among other sponsors, partnered with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the Center of Innovation Network to renew the Life Sciences Forum, a quarterly event for networking and trending industry discussions among Life Sciences leaders. The renewed forum discussed venture philanthropy.

Venture philanthropy is a great way to de-risk some of the early expensive research into solutions for specific patient populations that the typical life sciences investors might steer away from. And finding angel investors in the life sciences is getting harder and harder despite the potential upside.

Two of the forum panelists are distinguished executives with important foundations involved with venture philanthropy. Robert J. Beall, Ph.D, former President and CEO of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was one of the people credited with starting the Venture Philanthropy model.

Panelist Joshua Sommer, co- founder and executive director of the Chordoma Foundation, was diagnosed with skull-base Chordoma in 2006, previously was on the staff of a lab at Duke University for two years.

A third panelist was James Rosen, now deputy director with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Previously Rosen was an active executive with Intersouth Partners, a Durham venture capital fund.

So what is venture philanthopy? In recent years the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invested in a Chapel Hill based nanotechnology company, Liquidia Technologies, cofounded by rockstar researcher Joe DeSimone. It was a $10 million dollar investment as part of the more than $50 million that LiquidiaTechnologies raised.

So you read that right, a non profit invested in a for-profit startup in this new trend called Venture Philanthropy. The New York Times looked at the concept in an article pointing out a potential conflict of interest between the non profits and investing for gains.

But I think we all need to recognize that Venture Philanthropy is now an option as we try to grow. the life sciences sector throughout North Carolina and the South.

Jim R. Roberts is a professional connector that has started several entrepreneur support organizations in North Carolina. He is currently the founder of the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW) and the Wilmington Angels for Local Entrepreneurs (WALE) in Wilmington, North Carolina.. He is a former employee of the Center of Innovation for NanoBiotechnology , a program of the NC Biotechnology Center.