Mayo Launches Accelerator Dedicated to Gene and Cell Therapies

Mayo Launches Accelerator Dedicated to Gene and Cell Therapies

The Rochester-based health system has established a program to help found and nurture new companies piloting the latest innovations in gene and cell therapies.

Mayo Clinic is teaming up with a Maryland-based venture capital firm and a Chinese biopharmaceutical firm to help launch new companies focused on gene and cell therapies.

On Wednesday, Mayo announced that it’s launching a new accelerator called Mayflower BioVentures in partnership with Rockville, Maryland-based VC firm Hibiscus BioVentures and China-based Innoforce. Mayo leaders said the venture is aimed at “identifying and forming companies around technologies that address unmet patient needs.”

In an email, Mayo Clinics Ventures chair Andrew Danielsen estimated that the accelerator will give birth to about one to three new companies a year. “We have created one thus far (Sendero) and have two others that are getting close (Primera and InvoCAR),” he said.

Unlike a typical accelerator, Mayflower won’t be working with existing companies. Instead, it’s dedicated exclusively to launching new ones using Mayo’s research. For ideas deemed lucrative, the accelerator will establish a new company and provide funds to advance the technology, Danielsen said. “Hopefully the work we fund in Mayflower will be successful and the companies will spin out of Mayflower and raise additional funds to continue to develop the technology to a therapeutic that can be applied to patients at Mayo and elsewhere,” he added.

Gene and cell therapies fall under a broader category of new medical interventions known as “biologics” – a term referring to drugs or therapies derived from living things, such as blood, enzymes, or tissues. The Mayflower accelerator is part of Mayo’s “new strategic emphasis on biomanufacturing new medicines known as biologics.” Earlier this month, Mayo announced a partnership with a California startup aimed at ramping up development of new biologics.

Each of the three entities involved in the new accelerator will have a one-third stake in the newly created companies. They’ve all provided capital for the effort, too. Mayo’s funds originate from its own $250 million venture fund. As newly launched companies grow and begin to seek funding, the three founding entities will likely kick in some additional capital, according to Danielsen.

The accelerator will take place, in part, at Mayo’s headquarters in Rochester. But the health system is exploring additional sites in Florida and Arizona, Danielsen said. “We will have a strong virtual presence as well in order to find talent anywhere and to be capital efficient, especially early on in the life of Mayflower,” he noted.