New York Angels Step Up to Fund Local Biotech and Medtech Startups

5/23/11Follow @arleneweintraub

Shortly after Milena Adamian joined the San Francisco office of Easton Capital in 2007, she got involved in two local angel groups, Life Science Angels and Health Tech Capital. Adamian, who is a cardiologist by training, was drawn to the opportunity to support fledgling entrepreneurs—some of whom were developing new drugs and devices that she knew doctors might embrace, if only the companies could get the funding they needed. “Angel financing is a very different mentality because you look at early stage companies,” Adamian says. “The part that’s the most fun is helping companies get off the ground.”

So when Adamian transferred to her VC firm’s New York office in 2010, she started looking for life-science angel groups to join—and found none. “I didn’t believe it,” she says. “I looked at it as an opportunity to build something in New York that didn’t exist.”

Hence, one woman’s love of angel investing led to the creation of New York’s first angel group focusing entirely on biotech, health IT, and medical devices. The organization, called Life Sciences Angel Network (LSAN), launched in October with 25 angels, a half-dozen or so sponsoring organizations, and an initial mandate to screen 50 business plans that streamed in from entrepreneurs who were eager to tap into the new funding source.

Adamian’s goal is to grow LSAN to include 100 angels. And she believes the city is ready to embrace the idea of investing in early-stage life sciences companies. “In New York, the whole financing landscape has significantly evolved in the last three years. All of a sudden people are pursuing deals,” she says.

Most of the seed money in New York is still being poured into tech startups—a problem that’s more about impatience than lack of opportunity, Adamian observes. When she was starting up LSAN, Adamian visited a variety of angel groups, including the tech-focused New York Angels, and Golden Seeds, which invests in women-led companies in a variety of industries. Though some were dabbling in life sciences, none had truly focused on it, she says. Part of their reluctance, she believes, stems from the fact that the payoff can take longer to materialize in life sciences than it does in technology.

Adamian believes that patience will pay off for LSAN’s angels. As proof, she points to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report showing that in the first quarter of this year, New York was second only to San Francisco in venture capital funding for life sciences. Granted, it was a far second—New York companies raised $190 million, while San Francisco companies … Next Page »

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