RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – First Flight Venture Center will celebrate its 30th anniversary at an event Friday and discuss the organization’s annual report for the 2020 fiscal year.
The organization began following a decision made by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1991 that granted the North Carolina Technological Development Authority, Inc. title to a state-owned property for the dedicated purpose of developing a high-technology business incubator.
That became the First Flight Venture Center. The center became home to more than 400 startup companies since its inception, collectively worth more than $8 billion in commercialization successes, according to the organization’s website celebrating the 30th anniversary.
First Flight celebrates the anniversary at an event in Cary later today that will include remarks from Krista Covey, president of the First Flight Venture Center; the senior vice president and regional market director of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Oliver Sherrill, the CEO of Biomason, Ginger Krieg Dosier; and Jeff Sigman, senior vice president of clinical operations at United Therapeutics, along with Dean Bunce, executive vice president of global regulatory affairs at United Therapeutics.
“As the nation is navigating its way through a devastating pandemic and economic hurdles, scientists around the world have been front and center to find effective treatments and vaccines,” a letter written by Krista Covey, president of First Flight Venture Center, that appears in the organization’s 2020 annual report states. “First Flight is, at its core, a non-profit incubator for science-focused startups and is home to such scientists, researchers, engineers, technologists, and others who dream that their venture will make the world a better place.”
Covey notes in the letter that anniversaries allow individuals and organizations to reflect on the past, but also allow for mobilizing for the future.
Covey led the organization to earn the organization’s single largest grant, worth some $2.6 million, with the purpose of sharing state-of-the-art prototyping equipment to promote design thinking principles and additive manufacturing capacity in the region, said board chair Mary Musacchia, in a letter that appeared in the annual report.
First Flight companies employed more than 110 people in 2020 and raised about $17.6 million in equity financing, the report notes. Additionally, First Flight companies raised $3.8 million in grant funding, and collectively applied for more than 25 patents.
Covey oversaw the launch of a new program, Propeller, a six-week program for early-stage companies, as well as the organization’s Founders’ Roundtable program and Talking Shop program to assist creators and inventors in additive manufacturing and prototyping.
The annual report highlights notable First Flight’s “graduates,” or companies that have emerged from the venture center and established operations elsewhere, including Cell Microsystems, which earlier this week disclosed it had raised $12.6 million and expects to hire additional employees in 2021 and 2022.
“The First Flight Venture Center was the first real home for Cell Microsystems,” said Gary M. Pace, CEO of Cell Microsystems, in a statement presented in the First Flight Venture Center report. “It was the only space we could fnd that would accommodate the range of activities needed, which included the appropriate equipment and arrangements for us to integrate our team’s efforts in opto-mechanical engineering, polymer manufacturing, cell biology, and software engineering.”
According to Pace, the company’s products, the CellRaft AIR System and CytoSort Arrays were each designed, developed, and first manufactured at FFVC.
“Launched from FFVC in 2018, these products have been sold to leading academic, government, and pharma/biotech organizations,” said Pace. “FFVC has provided us with the flexibility to expand our facilities as the Company has grown.”