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U Arizona-focused venture fund makes its first investments

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

A new, early stage venture capital firm aimed at supporting University of Arizona technology spinoffs has made its first three investments.

UA Venture Capital Fund LLC, founded earlier this year by Tucson businessmen Fletcher McCusker and Michael Deitch, made investments in startups Codelucida, which has developed error-correction technology for data storage drives; Regulonix, which is commercializing a new kind of non-opioid painkiller; and Post.Bid.Ship., which is marketing an online trucking app that automatically connects shippers of goods with haulers.

The exact amount of each investment is confidential, but McCusker said the average investment was $2 million.

McCusker, CEO of Sinfonía HealthCare Corp., and Deitch, Sinfonía’s chief financial officer, formed UA Venture Capital last fall, following the sale of its wholly-owned subsidiary, SinfoníaRx Inc., in 2017.

SinfoníaRx, a medication review company based on technology developed at the UA College of Pharmacy, was spun out of the UA and acquired by Sinfonía in 2013. The company was sold to Tabula Rasa HealthCare in September 2017.

McCusker said the three companies “each offer cutting edge science or technology capable of having an enormous impact in the world,” and the venture investments are just the start.

“We expect to fund many additional talented inventors and worthwhile companies in an effort to advance UA-related science and enterprises,” said McCusker, a 1974 graduate of the UA.

Formed by UA engineering graduates and faculty, Codelucida says its error-correction tech can enable cheaper large capacity, high-performance solid state drives for consumer and data-center storage.

The company was named UA Startup of the Year for 2017 by Tech Launch Arizona, the UA’s technology commercialization arm, and it was among six spring 2017 winners of the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Arizona Innovation Challenge.

Codelucida co-founder Shiva Planjery said the new funding will help the company as it works to establish strategic partnerships in the computer industry.

“This round will play a pivotal role in supporting the next phase by allowing us to strategically allocate resources as needed in the areas of engineering, business development, marketing and sales, as we continue to gain customer traction, and in the process of securing strategic partnerships with major companies in the semiconductor industry,” said Planjery, who earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from the UA in 2013.

Other Codelucida founders are UA electrical engeering professor Bane Vasic and David Declercq, professor at the École Nationale Supérieure de l’Électronique et de ses Applications in Cergy-Pontoise, France.

Regulonix has invented and licensed from the UA a new class of non-opioid compounds that have been shown in animal models to be more effective than morphine, nonaddictive and nontoxic.

The company is now trying to advance the drugs to human trials ahead of seeking market approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Regulonix was co-founded by Rajesh Khanna, UA associate professor of anesthesiology and neuroscience and professor of pharmacology; May Khanna, assistant professor of pharmacology; and Vijay Gokhale, a senior research scientist at the UA’s BIO5 Institute.

Post.Bid.Ship. was founded in 2010 by three graduates of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship in the UA’s Eller College of Management and moved to Scottsdale in 2013.

The company has developed an online freight-hauling marketplace that identifies and locates an available hauler and then matches them to a shipper, increasing shipping efficiencies.

It has received private-equity funding from Arizona investors including the Tucson-based Desert Angels and has raised more than $5 million, including a $2 million funding round last year.


Source: UA-focused venture fund makes its first investments | Business News | tucson.com

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