AUSTIN, Texas — Discovery to Impact, the newly named group leading The University of Texas at Austin’s research commercialization and innovation efforts, has formed a new $10 million UT Seed Fund. The fund will invest in the most promising new startups built on university-owned intellectual property emerging from UT Austin’s $800 million research enterprise.
“By investing in these early-stage companies, we will be addressing a crucial gap in the capital market and enabling development of impactful technologies, while encouraging investors to consider opportunities coming out of the university,” said Jim Davis, vice president of business strategies and operations.
The UT Seed Fund is another element of the university’s deepened commitment to dramatically expand research commercialization across campus while establishing a more prominent role in the vibrant Austin and Texas startup ecosystem. Discovery to Impact will support university researchers through an innovative business approach, helping to launch startups and collaborate with established businesses to accelerate new products, services, solutions and cures.
The university will invest in three or four new companies each year through the initiative, with an anticipated maximum investment of $250,000 per company.
The UT Seed Fund will first invest in Jurata Thin Film (juratatf.com), a startup based on the research discoveries of Maria Croyle, a professor in the College of Pharmacy. Founded in 2019, Jurata Thin Film Inc. has revolutionized the way vaccines and biologics are manufactured, distributed, stored and delivered across the world.
Jurata’s thin films can be stored at room temperature for up to three years while maintaining therapeutic payload potency. The technology stands poised to remove the need for lyophilization, or freeze drying, in pharmaceutical manufacturing and eliminate cold chain logistics in vaccine and biologic transport and storage.
Jurata is led by an accomplished entrepreneurial team of Sheila Mikhail, CEO, and Jude Samulski, co-founder. Mikhail and Samulski have twice teamed their formidable business and science talents to produce Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc. (AskBio) and Bamboo Therapeutics Inc., both of which had successful exits.
The UT Seed Fund investment is part of a $4.87 million round that will support the design and build of a pilot-scale manufacturing line capable of fabricating more than 1,000 doses of vaccine- or biologic-loaded thin films per hour. The manufacturing equipment, which is scheduled to be delivered next spring, will enable Jurata to produce clinical-grade material at relevant scale. Funds will also be used to support the requisite toxicity studies demonstrating the safety of Jurata’s formulation for administration under the tongue (sublingual), inside the cheek (buccal), or through intramuscular injection after rehydration.
“Jurata is very excited to be the first recipient of UT Seed Fund,” said Megan Livingston, Jurata’s senior director of business development. “UT has been extremely supportive of our technology and development, and we look forward to continuing our relationship through this investment.”
The Discovery to Impact team at UT Austin brings research discoveries to the marketplace to impact the world. Working with world-class inventors, investors, creators and entrepreneurs, Discovery to Impact launches startups and collaborates with established businesses to accelerate new products, services, solutions and cures to relentlessly pursue UT’s promise: What starts here changes the world.