MERIT: Funding “Hard to Fund” Science with MERIT
An Innovative Initiative to Address the “Valley of Death” in Biomedical Research
The Medical Excellence Capital (MEC) team invests in company creation, seed, Series A, and Series B opportunities where technology and novel approaches are transformative for patient care and directly address large, unmet needs. This makes us keenly aware of the trials and tribulations that come with building successful companies and positioning them to deliver life-changing therapies. As preclinical science progresses from basic research to clinical studies, there lurks a phenomenon that is well-known within the biomedical research community as the “valley of death.” This is the critical point where even high-potential therapeutic development is often halted due to a lack of financial resources. In our opinion, venture capital investors prefer to invest in at least partially de-risked technologies and are generally unwilling to provide capital until they see the projects further along in development. And, sometimes even really promising, novel technologies are not quite up to that minimum standard. This is because the costs involved in translating basic research into more company-ready endeavors are often costlier than traditional grants and university budgets can allocate for researchers. Or, in many cases, the grant process to fund promising technologies is too lengthy, sometimes requiring up to two years. This causes a conundrum where scientists need capital to progress to the “sufficiently de-risked” stage to assure venture capital interest yet cannot secure funding for the experiments necessary to de-risk their invention. It is not an exaggeration to claim that this has caused life-saving therapies to be abandoned, and patients seeking solutions to their conditions left stranded without options for treatment.
MERIT: A Solution to Fill the Void
The MEC team’s thesis to create and develop the earliest stage of company formation provides a first-hand view of the real damage and loss of potential created by this funding gap. And, instead of lamenting it and then pretending it is not there – we decided to do something about it. We feel compelled to give back to the scientific community and help promising scientists and their innovations escape this void. We hope others in the VC, Family Office, and Charitable Foundations community will join us. As investors and citizens in the life sciences space, we feel this is a great way to channel our social responsibility. It is a passion we all have shared since the team came together. This shared vision led to the creation of the Medical Excellence Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The Medical Excellence Research Innovation Trust (MERIT) is a charitable grant-making program designed to provide grants to help researchers de-risk their scientific innovations. We also will provide expert guidance to assist scientists to escape the “valley of death.” Truly, a key differentiator for MERIT grantees is the active support from the MEC team. Grantees will not only receive funding but also guidance and support from the MEC team and network to help advance their technologies intelligently and efficiently. This platform provides researchers with the opportunity to focus on key factors that venture capitalists look for in de-risked projects. Done well, this funding and support increase the probability of future funding rounds by traditional capital sources. This in turn leads to more therapies in clinical development.
Join Us – The Opportunity in the Life Science Venture Capital Community
Medical Excellence Capital and its Limited Partners have taken a serious first step to bridge the early-stage scientific funding gap. But we cannot do it alone. With the introduction of MERIT, we hope to see other venture capital firms form grant-making foundations of their own to help fund groundbreaking science. The value and insights that come with venture investors providing guidance along with capital in early-stage experiment design and/or execution are immeasurable. While we are excited by the impact that we believe MERIT will have, more involvement by our fellow investors will certainly be a major catalyst to accelerate innovation. Partnering with research scientists to advance science is in the fabric of our DNA here at MEC. The Medical Excellence Foundation via the MERIT program provides another avenue to further our mission. We look forward to building a new and exciting resource for those scientists that work to solve the most challenging problems in the life sciences space. We believe success will ultimately bring more and better options for patients in need.