Startup Snapshot: Vergent Bioscience
Vergent CEO John Santini

Startup Snapshot: Vergent Bioscience

Why this Minneapolis-based biotechnology company is raising money now.

Vergent Bioscience is developing a drug to help patients recover from cancer—but perhaps not in the way you might expect. The drug is a fluorescent imaging agent known as VGT-309, and CEO John Santini says it makes tumors “light up.”

The aim is to help surgeons find previously undetected or difficult-to-find tumors during surgery. It’s particularly promising for minimally invasive or robotic-assisted surgeries where a physician doesn’t have a direct line of sight. VGT-309 is not a therapeutic, but it will still require FDA approval. That means it needs to go through clinical trials before it can be sold to medical professionals, says Santini, who holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from MIT.

For now, Vergent is focusing on lung cancer, but Santini hopes to tackle other cancers down the road. The company is pre-revenue and employs just two people full time, but it has captured investors’ attention. In October, Vergent pulled in $21.5 million in a Series B raise from a range of investors, including the venture capital arm of Florida-based health system Orlando Health. “The diversity of that investor mix says a lot about the need,” Santini says.

The details

Headquarters: Minneapolis 

Founded: 2016 

Founders: Jeff Julkowski and Dean Banks

Funds raised to date: $34 million

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VGT-309 imaging agent makes tumors “light up.”
VGT-309 imaging agent makes tumors “light up.”