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New push to support startups at IllinoisVentures

Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

CHAMPAIGN – The University of Illinois subsidiary created a decade ago to help catapult technologies coming out of the school’s research labs into the marketplace is making a renewed push to support startups that have ties to the state.

IllinoisVentures is bringing in a new co-director and more board members from outside academia. It will also increase investment funding for startups emerging from the university’s Chicago campus.

Since it was created in 2001, the company has helped raise millions for startup businesses linked to the state and commercialize technologies being developed in University of Illinois research labs. The company operates two private venture funds totaling about $50 million and also invests directly in startups with seed and equity funding.

The new co-managing director is Nancy Sullivan, who also leads the Chicago campus’ Office of Technology Management, where she has helped faculty members license their inventions. She plans to also continue in that role.

At Ventures, Sullivan told The News-Gazette in Champaign, she wants to “continue the cycle from the labs, from translational research out to commercialization.”

A new $10 million fund for startups emerging from the Chicago campus is meant to help accomplish that. The Chancellor’s Innovation Fund will also allow the firm to reinvest the money it earns through the commercialization of new technologies.

Researchers at the Chicago campus have already developed drugs, helping the campus generate $17 million in royalties for the 2012 fiscal year. Other successes include ShareThis, a content-sharing program ranked 35th on a Forbes magazine list of America’s most promising companies.

When IllinoisVentures was created, it was one of only a handful of such entities operating at U.S. universities. The model has since spread to dozens of colleges.

“It’s clear the university showed great creativity and wisdom in launching what at the time was a highly unique effort,” Sullivan said.

The two new board members are Brendan Fox, a former executive from the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, and Franklyn Prendergast, a doctor with Mayo Clinic ties.

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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