Catalyst Magazine

Entrepreneurial Spirit: UMB Startups Receive Support from Maryland Momentum Fund

The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) strives to support the entrepreneurial talents of its students, faculty, staff, and alumni as it works to improve the human condition and serve the public good.

To this end, the University System of Maryland (USM) continues to aid entrepreneurs at UMB and throughout the state with the $10 million Maryland Momentum Fund (MMF).

Established in 2016, the sector-agnostic fund invests in the most promising USM-affiliated technologies and people, helping bridge the funding gap for early-stage companies.

“The UMB community, including its alumni, are incredibly entrepreneurial,” said Claire Broido Johnson, managing director of MMF. “Momentum Fund investment is designed to give startups a boost in the early stages, when funding is needed but often difficult to obtain.”

The fund has $1.2 million remaining to invest in new companies. To be eligible, the company must be located in Maryland and affiliated with a USM institution (either founded by university faculty, staff, students, or alumni; located in a university-affiliated research park or incubator; or be university-owned intellectual property). In addition, the company ultimately must secure co-investment equal to or greater than MMF’s investment.

University System of Maryland, Maryland Momentum Fund

“The Maryland Momentum Fund is an incredible asset for alumni,” said Jeffrey Strovel, PhD, a 1999 University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) graduate and co-founder and chief executive officer of Veralox Therapeutics, which received $500,000 from the fund in 2019.

“The investment world is full of venture capital firms that often have high bars of entry. Access to capital that is friendlier to early-stage companies provides some breathing room, allowing the company to further de-risk the science and build a strong foundation to attract significant capital when appropriate rather than rushing to market.”

Since the fund began investments in 2017, five UMB-affiliated projects have received funding:

  • ARMR Systems, a University of Maryland BioPark tenant, received $350,000 in 2020. The company develops hemorrhage control systems designed to increase the survivability of traumatic battlefield injury in situations where advanced medical support is not immediately available.
  • KaloCyte,co-founded by Allan Doctor, MD, and Dipanjan Pan, PhD, MSc, received $300,000 in 2020. The Baltimore-based company is poised to deliver ErythroMer, a dried, bio-inspired artificial red blood cell, to market. Doctor and Pan lead the new UMSOM Center for Blood Oxygen Transport & Hemostasis. Pan holds a joint appointment at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
  • NeoProgen, which received $245,000 in 2019, is developing a novel cell-based therapy for people who experience a heart attack and patients with advanced heart failure. Based on intellectual property developed at UMSOM, NeoProgen was founded by three UMSOM researchers: Sunjay Kaushal, MD, PhD; Rachana Mishra, PhD; and Sudhish Sharma, PhD. Bill Niland, chief executive officer of NeoProgen, is the former president and CEO of Harpoon Medical, Inc., another UMSOM startup that was acquired in 2017, and also serves on the UMB Foundation Board of Trustees.
  • NextStep Robotics received $250,000 in 2018 and $250,000 in 2020. The Baltimore-based company is developing an exoskeleton robot to reverse foot drop for stroke victims. Founder and chief executive officer Brad Hennessie, MS, MBA, a graduate of Towson University and University of Maryland Global Campus, licensed intellectual property developed at UMSOM and also has coordinated research with UMSOM and the University of Maryland, College Park’s A. James Clark School of Engineering.
  • Veralox Therapeutics, based in Frederick, received $500,000 in 2019. Co-founded by Strovel, the company is focused on developing first-in-class small molecule therapeutics that treat the underlying pathologies of thrombosis and Type 1 diabetes.

Learn more about the Maryland Momentum Fund, its diverse portfolio of investments, and eligibility or submit an interest form at momentum.usmd.edu

UMB Staff

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