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Our Strategy | Regional Focus

Utah and the Mountain West have historically attracted scientific entrepreneurs, in part due to a strong healthcare research base and entrepreneurial faculty at Utah’s universities, a well-trained and cost effective technical labor force, and the highly motivated work ethic for which the State is noted, which has stimulated rapid growth of the biotech and medical devices industries in recent years.

World-class academic innovation

The State of Utah has been recognized as an economic powerhouse in the United States. It is note-worthy that the University of Utah is U.S.’s largest university generator of start-ups and Brigham Young University ranks #1 in AUTM rankings for spinouts per $1M.

State-level funding and incentives

The State of Utah created the Centers of Excellence Program, which funds start-up companies to take their products to the prototype stage. Many of Utah’s well known biotech companies, including Myriad Genetics, trace their development to use of these funds.

In 2004, the Utah Science, Technology and Research (USTAR) Initiative implemented a joint public/private sector investment of $500 million over 10 years to help fund technology clusters at the State’s two largest research institutions.

In 2006, to stimulate financial investment in technology and life science companies, the State initiated a $100 million Fund-of-Funds to attract new and increased venture capital investment in Utah and in 2008 authorized an additional $200 million for this program. The Fund-of-Funds has committed to invest 10% of UpStart’s initial $10 million of funding and 5% of the remainder raised up to $20 million.

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  Why Utah?

Life science technology originating at Utah universities has generated a number of industry-leading companies and substantial returns to investors.

The Fund’s Principals co-founded four of these companies.

  1. Anesta, a publicly-traded company delivering analgesic compounds, was acquired in 2000 by Cephalon for $455M

  2. Myriad Genetics pioneered the genomics industry by discovering predisposing genes for breast cancer and other major diseases, and is now a public company with ~900 employees in Salt Lake City

  3. Sonic Innovations is a digital hearing aid company out of BYU that developed breakthrough prescription hearing instruments and was taken public by Goldman Sachs in 2000

  4. Acacia Biosciences, a gene profiling company out of the University of Utah and UC Berkeley, was merged into Rosetta Inpharmatics which in turn was acquired by Merck in 2001 for $620M

  5. TheraTech, which developed novel controlled release transdermal and other drug delivery products, had a successful public offering in 1992 and was acquired by Watson Pharmaceuticals in 1999 for $350M

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