When I wrote my last “letter from the CEO” in January 2020, I did not foresee the tumultuous year ahead. For so many, it’s been a tragic and difficult year on a personal level. We have all been impacted by the pandemic in a variety of ways, and certainly, the pandemic has also had significant business impact on VIC. I will describe those impacts and our response to them in the upcoming 2020 Annual Report, a non-confidential summary of which will be included in our February newsletter. Here, however, I want to outline how, despite pandemic-associated delays and obstacles, we have seen great progress across the VIC portfolio and our innovation ecosystem.There were numerous FDA milestones reached by our companies. Solenic Medical and SFC Fluidics both received FDA Breakthrough Device designation for their lead products (see Solenic Medical Receives FDA Breakthrough Device Designation and SFC Fluidics, Inc. Receives FDA Breakthrough Device Designation). FDA Breakthrough Device Designation provides for priority regulatory review and other benefits. CardioWise, Vixiar Medical, and Calyxo all made FDA 510(k) submissions in 2020 with CardioWise and Calyxo receiving FDA approvals and Vixiar expecting approval in 2021 Q1.
We formed two exciting new portfolio companies in 2020. Filtravate was created to commercialize advanced bio-filtration membranes to address growing unmet needs in the multibillion-dollar biotechnology membrane market. Based on technology exclusively licensed from New Mexico State University, Filtravate is developing next generation membranes to enable continuous bioprocessing in the biomanufacturing and pharmaceutical industries (filtravate.com). Neurexis Therapeutics was established to develop new medication for the prevention of brain damage following ischemic events. Licensed from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, this drug has the potential to significantly improve clinical outcomes for stroke and cardiac arrest patients, reduce total healthcare costs, and addresses a multibillion-dollar market opportunity (neurexistherapeutics.com).
Following another year of sales and profitability growth, our water cleantech company BlueInGreen—provider of the most efficient method of dissolving oxygen, carbon dioxide and ozone in water—was acquired by Chart Industries (NASDAQ: GTLS). See BlueInGreen Acquired by Chart Industries for more details.
Many other value-enhancing milestones were also achieved, including pre-clinical trials at BiologicsMD and Nob Hill Therapeutics, additional trials and establishment of go-to-market manufacturing capability by Akeso Biomedical and Calyxo, important strategic partnering agreements at Tesseract Structural Innovations, CardioWise, and SFC Fluidics, and product development milestones by OsteoVantage and Zebra Analytix.
The VIC innovation ecosystem developed two important new elements: the VIC Fellows program (Inside The VIC Fellows Program) and the VIC Foundry (VIC Foundry: An Incubator for High Impact Life Science Technologies). Our first Fellows class featured an outstanding mix of talent who made strong contributions to our opportunity assessment team as well as non-dilutive grant funding applications within the VIC Foundry. Several new development projects were initiated by the Foundry, including an at-home molecular test for COVID-19 through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Sandia National Labs. This project is being funded by the NIH RADx Next program for rapid commercialization of COVID-19 diagnostics.
While not without setbacks, including delays in the acquisition and strategic partnering negotiations for some of our companies, the VIC portfolio as a whole has made remarkable progress in a challenging environment. The support of the VIC innovation ecosystem—including investments from VIC and the VIC Investor Network, combined with efficient company development processes—is certainly one significant element to this rapid, continued value growth and progress.
Not surprisingly, we have seen outside investment slow during the pandemic, particularly for earlier-stage opportunities. Looking forward, in 2021 we hope to see a return to something closer to normal with the COVID vaccines coming into wider supply and the pandemic being brought under control, as well as increasing interest in science-driven innovation. We have been cautious in our expansion plans until we get back to some sense of normalcy. Presently, we foresee being back in full expansion mode by the second half of 2021. We are well-positioned to achieve our expansion goals with the technology pipeline we have built, including technologies being developed within the VIC Foundry, but will closely monitor the investment environment during the first months of the new year.
On behalf of the entire VIC team, I wish everyone a safe, happy, and productive 2021!
Chief Executive Officer | VIC Technology Venture Development
Co-Manager | VIC Investor Network