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Seed Fund Invests in Local Companies

Louisville's Life-Sciences Industry Continues to Grow

LOUISVILLE - Key investments that could lead to major medical advances are happening right here in our hometown, said Mayor Jerry Abramson.

The Kentucky Seed Capital Fund (KSCF) has made investments in two local companies, ApoVax, Inc. and RhinoCyte, Inc., both of which were helped in their development and management by MetaCyte Business Lab.

"These two investments demonstrate our success in attracting more venture capital to Louisville," Abramson said. "This seed fund is fostering Louisville's growth in the life-sciences field, and by its growing reputation is a catalyst for other investors to look at our homegrown businesses."

ApoVax, Inc. received $250,000 from KSCF, with a total round of investment of $765,000. This investment helped to leverage a $500,000 loan from the State. Investors include the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation and Commonwealth Seed Capital. ApoImmune, founded by University of Louisville Professor Haval Shirwan, is a biotechnology company developing new immunotherapies to treat chronic and acute life-threatening diseases with primary focus on transplantation, type 1 diabetes, and therapeutic vaccines against cancer and infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and avian influenza.

KSCF invested $260,000 in RhinoCyte, Inc., leading a $930,000 investment round. Other investors include the Queen City Angels, The Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, the Bluegrass Venture Fund, the Bluegrass Angels and some Louisville-based angels. RhinoCyte has developed a method of isolating adult stem cells located in the olfactory regions of the mucosal lining of the human nasal passageways, which can be applied towards therapies for spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also called Lou Gehrig's disease) and Parkinson's Disease. RhinoCyte was founded by Fred Roisen, Ph.D., Chengliang Lu, M.D., and Kathy Klueber, Ph.D. Both investments were based on technologies out of the University of Louisville.

"Louisville's life-sciences industry is developing exciting new companies," said George Emont, Managing Partner, Kentucky Seed Capital Fund. "Rather than leave town, these companies are staying in Louisville because of availability of investment capital, not only from across Kentucky, but also from outside of the state."

KSCF's first investment was $250,000 in Pradama, a local specialty pharmaceutical company led by University of Louisville pharmacology professor William M. Pierce, Jr. It is focused on the development and commercialization of products to treat bone diseases. The company's technology enables it to target drugs to bone cells. The first product will be for osteoporosis, with additional opportunities for diseases such as bone cancer.

University of Louisville President James R. Ramsey said that "the University sees this as an opportunity for our researchers to benefit by turning their work into commercial products, while at the same time, being a key partner to economic development for the Louisville community and the commonwealth."

The Kentucky Seed Capital Fund is a privately-managed venture fund that invests capital in seed-stage health science companies at a point in their development when it is hardest to raise funds. Its investors include Commonwealth Seed Capital (State of KY), University of Louisville, Humana Inc., Baptist Healthcare System, Kosair Charities, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's Healthcare, James Graham Brown Foundation, and the Kentucky State District Council of Carpenters Pension Trust Fund. The fund has raised more than $5 million.