Philanthropist John Flatley Starts Venture Group to Back New Cystic Fibrosis Treatments
John Flatley, a real estate developer and philanthropist, has founded an investment group called Flatley Venture Capital to back life sciences startups with potential treatments for the genetic disease cystic fibrosis. Flatley, who has a close family member with the disease, told me he launched the venture group within the last few months.
Flatley Venture Capital, unlike a traditional VC firm, isn’t primarily focused on making profits on its investments, Flatley says. The venture outfit aims to provide between $200,000 and $2 million to support biotech startups that might not otherwise be able to afford to develop their technologies for the cystic fibrosis market, which consists of 30,000 patients in the U.S. and about 70,000 worldwide—numbers that pale in comparison to the cancer and heart disease markets. Flatley only expects to break even with his investments from the fund, he says.
Flatley, the son of the late Boston-area real estate mogul Thomas Flatley, has hired a Harvard University graduate named Alex Pickett as a senior analyst to evaluate deals for the venture group. While the group hasn’t made any investments yet, Flatley says “it’s going to be a substantial fund.” He says he is already considering backing two companies, which he declined to name.
This isn’t Flatley’s first foray to help advance cystic fibrosis treatments. He previously led the creation of a nonprofit laboratory, now called the Flatley Discovery Lab, in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. The nonprofit effort, quietly launched in 2008, has the mission of finding new drugs for cystic fibrosis, which causes the body to produce thick mucus that leads to chronic lung infections and poor absorption of nutrients. (The median life expectancy of someone with the disease was about 37 years in 2008).
When word got out last year that Flatley had started the research lab, formerly known as … Next Page »