For the first time, the University of Michigan will host the Coulter Investment Forum in conjunction with the 2017 Michigan Growth Capital Symposium on May 16 and 17. The annual forum, sponsored by the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, will showcase 25 to 32 emerging companies with life-science innovations that have been vetted through the Translational Research Partnership Program at one of 16 university partners using the Coulter Commercialization Process.
The Coulter Commercialization Process utilizes industry best practices to accelerate the movement of academic biomedical innovations from the bench to the bedside by reducing risk and attracting follow-on funding. It has proven to be the most successful program of its kind, according to Director-Research Awards Mara Neal. Over a 10-year period, the Coulter Process funded 300 translational research projects, of which one-third advanced from university laboratories into industry and raised nearly $2 billion of follow-on investment.
“This is an opportunity to showcase companies to [members of] the Midwest investment community who may not have attended our previous two forums, at Stanford and Boston,” explains Neal. She says the decision to hold the third Coulter Investment Forum in the nation’s heartland was driven by the opportunity to reach a broader audience of potential investors and by the “established excellence” of the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium.
“The symposium has a long history, and the people who attend it are interested in this area,” Neal adds. “Our companies are all biomedical startups [that are commercializing innovations] ranging from health IT to diagnostics and devices.”
Coulter Program oversight committees at the 16 participating universities, including U-M, will select one or two high-potential startups to attend this year’s forum where each will make a formal fundraising presentation to investors. To be eligible, a company must have received an investment from a Coulter Program at a partner university and have completed the Coulter Commercialization Process. In addition, it must have a professional CEO, a license from the university to commercialize technology that helps to improve patient care and medical practice and the ability to attract funding from angels, venture investors and/or industry partners.
“All the companies will be presenting to try to raise funds,” Neal says. “We assume the people in the audience will be angel investors, entrepreneurs looking for their next leadership gig, venture capitalists or senior representatives from industry seeking new products and technologies.”
The inspiration behind the Translational Partnership Program’s philosophy of “science serving humanity” was Wallace H. Coulter, a little-known biomedical engineer who applied his inquisitive mind and engineering talent to solving unmet clinical needs. Coulter invented the Coulter Principle, a method for sizing and counting particles that is still used today, and founded the Coulter Corporation, a private global diagnostics company, which he led with his brother, Joseph R. Coulter Jr., for more than 40 years. After Wallace Coulter’s death in 1998, the proceeds from his estate were used to fund the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, which has continued to provide risk capital for innovative initiatives through its grants and to sponsor university-based translational research grant programs.