Scouting San Diego, Battelle Chemist Seeks Catalyzing Role as Industrial Biotech Arises Here

11/2/11Follow @bvbigelow

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create value in the marketplace.”

San Diego’s innovation community also has grown excited at the possibility that the $220-million venture fund that Battelle created in 2003 will likewise step up its investment activity here, says Camille Saltman, president and chief operating officer of Connect, a nonprofit group supporting entrepreneurs in San Diego.

Battelle Ventures, based in Princeton, NJ, has invested about 75 percent of its capital in 27 startups throughout the country, according to Tracy Warren, a general partner. The portfolio includes BioNano Genomics, a company developing genetic mapping technology that moved to San Diego from Philadelphia earlier this year.

But people shouldn’t infer too much from the move, says BioNano CEO Erik Holmlin. While the decision to move to San Diego was a board-level decision (and Warren is chairman), Holmlin said it had little to do with Battelle’s plans here. Rather, Holmlin says BioNano moved to take advantage of San Diego’s “critical mass of expertise” in genomic sequencing—and because he prefers to live here.

Warren also downplayed the notion that Battelle Ventures would increase its investments in San Diego, saying the fund operates independently from Battelle, and would continue to be “geographically agnostic.” Nevertheless, Warren says early stage technology deals are often referred to the fund by Battelle’s global network of scientists and engineers. “They do pass those onto us, so there is a sort of proprietary lead generation for us,” she says.

Still, Vijayendran says his move to San Diego reflects a relatively new corporate strategy.

“The kind of business we have with the DoD [Department of Defense] in general tends to be more service-oriented, and the margins are not as high,” Vijayendran says. “So the thinking at the senior leadership level is that we should start … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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