Ohio State University’s new research and innovation chief is bullish on increasing the number of startups supported by the university and formed under its wing.
Grace Jinliu Wang joined the university Dec. 1 in the newly created role of senior vice president for research, innovation and knowledge enterprise, a position in which she’ll oversee a newly combined portfolio of research with corporate engagement and tech commercialization. She said it’s imperative to grow startup activity in Central Ohio if the community wants to see more “unicorns” like digital insurer Root Inc.
“We want to significantly, dramatically increase the number of startups, not only our own, based on OSU technology, but working with our community,” Wang told Columbus Business First. “We played a role in the success of Root Insurance through Drive Capital.”
Ohio State was an early investor in Columbus venture capital firm Drive Capital LLC in 2013, which two years later invested in Root Insurance Co. In October, Root went public, becoming the highest-valued stock market debut in Ohio history.
“That’s not a coincidence that any ecosystem can have a big success in one startup,” Wang said. “It actually speaks to the entire capacity of that ecosystem. It’s very important for us to dramatically increase the number of startups.”
Currently, OSU has 108 operational startups that are actively commercializing research, Wang said.
In other startup news:
BIOTECH STARTUP EMERGES WITH $80M SERIES
Neuron23 Inc., which quietly raised an initial $33.5 million two years ago from Westlake Village Partners and Kleiner Perkins, took on another $80 million in a round led by Redmile Group. The money will be used to tap artificial intelligence drug discovery and biomarker platforms to identify potential drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and systemic autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
The Series B funding included Westlake, Kleiner Perkins, Cowen Healthcare Investments, Acorn Bioventures, HBM Partners, Perceptive Advisors and Surveyor Capital.
The AI drug discovery work originated at Origenis GmbH, a German biotech company, which licensed two small molecule inhibitor programs to Neuron23 founders and Kleiner Perkins veterans Adam Knight and Beth Seidenberg.
TECH VENTURE FIRM HIRES FIRST COO AND CFO
Less than a month after MIT’s The Engine announced it had raised $230 million toward its second fund, it appointed a longtime specialist of impact investing in the newly created role of chief operating officer and chief financial officer.
Lara Metcalf, 53, started in her role at The Engine on Nov. 1. Previously, she was managing director of early-stage impact VC fund The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund.
Led by CEO Katie Rae, The Engine focuses on so-called “tough tech,” or companies that may take a long time to commercialize.
SHE SAID IT
“Leadership is about always giving your team the benefit of the doubt, believing that at every moment they are trying their best, including ourselves as founders. Sometimes your best or their best is not enough for what the situation requires, but that is normal. You have to have humility and courage to recognize that and adjust accordingly.”