In a push to turn brainpower into business, the nonprofit Accelerate Long Island provides money, mentoring and more to launch companies based on work at local research institutions.
Think of it as startups on steroids or administered adrenaline to commercialize research from academia.
“It’s important for retaining innovation, jobs and economic development through commercialization in our area,” says Peter Donnelly, Stony Brook University’s head of technology commercialization and the group’s managing director.
Accelerate is a partnership between Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Book and Hofstra universities, Northwell Health, and the Long Island Association.
“The research institutions we have are fantastic,” Donnelly continues. “However, we’re not as good at commercializing and retaining that innovation on Long Island or the City. There’s opportunity there.”
New York State provided $500,000 in initial grants that Accelerate invested in 10 companies, such as Sulfcrete, developing environmentally friendly concrete; Envisagenics, a bio-informatics firm; and Traverse Biosciences and DepYmed, both developing drugs. The 10 companies have received almost $30 million in follow-on funding since then.
“Its goal is to help launch early-stage companies,” adds David Calone, an Accelerate Long Island Board member and CEO of Jove Equity Partners, a venture capital firm. “They had science and concepts and ideas, but not necessarily finished product.”
Investors ordinarily wait until companies are further along, making seed money scarce: This funding fills a gap.
Accelerate provided a $50,000 state grant to SynchroPET, a company that develops high-tech imaging products. The company also received that amount combined from the Long Island Emerging Technology Fund, which Calone launched, and Topspin Partners.
“Without Accelerate, I don’t know if we could have interested venture capitalists to make that early investment,” SynchroPET CEO Marc Alessi says.
Cornell University is testing SynchroPET’s human PET scan device, but not on humans. Researchers are using “phantoms,” plastic modules injected with dye. Alessi expects work with human beings to begin soon.
SynchroPET has already raised $1.5 million and is gearing up to raise $2 million to $3 million and to begin sales.
Accelerate recently launched the Accelerate New York Seed Fund with $3 million from the Empire State Development Corporation, for companies on Long Island, in New York City and the Hudson Valley.
These investments can be risky business, but can help turn technology into products, saving lives and creating jobs.
“We have all this great science happening,” Calone says. “We need to make job-creating companies happen. This is how you get it started.”