JPM20: UPMC venture arm announces $1B life sciences commitment

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's venture capital arm is committing $1 billion in investments toward developing new drugs, diagnostics and devices by 2024.

The investments will be targeted to complement the work already underway in Pittsburgh, including a $200 commitment toward an immunotherapy-focused partnership with the University of Pittsburgh, officials said in a statement.

UPMC Enterprises' initial focus has been on the use of immunotherapies for cancer, transplantation and diseases related to aging. But the group is expanding to look at retinal and respiratory diseases, autoimmune diseases and neuroinflammation.

“The common link among our investments will be that each has a direct and powerful impact on how we care for our patients, while generating a significant financial return,” said Executive Vice President Jeanne Cunicelli in a statement. She previously served as managing director at Bay City Capital in San Francisco.

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UPMC has invested more than $800 million in its entrepreneurial efforts to date, primarily in digital solutions, which have returned more than $1.5 billion, officials said. 

Since 2018, UPMC Enterprises has formed five companies in the translational sciences sector and invested in biotech company Werewolf Therapeutics as well as 30 internal research projects.

Companies and internal programs funded by UPMC Enterprises have access to what Cunicelli calls “industry-grade” infrastructure.  

They pointed to the example of a startup named Generian—co-founded by UPMC's Toren Finkel to tackle diseases related to aging—which was able to access "top business and legal talent," a high-throughput facility for screening potential drug targets and access to chemists worldwide, officials said.

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Other investments have included BlueSphere Bio, co-founded by physician-scientists Mark and Warren Shlomchik and focused on rapid, personalized T-cell therapies for cancer; TTMS, with a mission to discover the next generation of effective immunotherapy targets; and Abound Bio, which is developing antibody libraries to generate biologic therapeutics, officials said.