It has been a year and ten months since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Despite the continuing pandemic, VIC’s business has largely returned to normal albeit with increased remote work, more Zoom and less travel, and other operational changes. In the second half of the year, we began launching new companies again after about a 17-month hiatus due to the pandemic. More specifically, we formed two new companies in Q3 and Q4, each based on innovative, large market opportunity technologies.
The first of these new companies is Solaris Vaccines, formed in August 2021. Current methods of developing and manufacturing vaccines are slow, not fully protective, and often have onerous storage requirements or other issues that complicate distribution. Solaris was formed to commercialize a novel approach trademarked as SolaVAXTM for creating vaccines that address limitations of traditional vaccines. This technology provides a multibillion-dollar market opportunity and is widely applicable across numerous pathogens. There is already over $20m in non-dilutive funding from federal sources earmarked for preclinical and early clinical development of a SolaVAX COVID-19 vaccine.
The second new company, Cellia Science, was created in December 2021. Cancer patients need rapid, accurate point-of-care blood analysis to direct treatment decisions. Frequent testing is required to inform care decisions. Complete blood count (CBC) results may take hours to receive from a central lab, delaying treatment. Cellia was formed to commercialize a novel, affordable, reagent-free blood cell counter technology that requires no calibration, is easy to use, provides results in minutes, has demonstrated 100% sensitivity and specificity for diagnosis of neutropenia in studies conducted to date, is portable, and can be applied to point-of-care or home use.
In addition, there was exciting progress in 2021 across our portfolio of companies. The progress was observable in a variety of ways, including rapid value appreciation as measured by share prices in follow-on investment rounds, promising clinical trial results, commercialization partnerships, and other performance metrics.
We continued to strengthen VIC’s team by adding renowned life science veterans Fenel Eloi, Ajay Gupta, and Laura Lyons to VIC’s Board of Directors, as well as Dennis Liotta and Paul Atkins to VIC’s Strategic Advisory Board. VIC assembled a new Medical Advisory Board to provide deep domain knowledge and clinical perspective within specific fields segments where VIC is most active. The initial members of the new Medical Advisory Board will be announced soon. A second class of VIC Fellows was brought in comprising talented physicians and scientists who contribute to our opportunity sourcing and assessment process for new technologies, grant applications, and—in some cases—take roles in portfolio companies.
In 2021, the VIC Investor Network made two founding investments into the two new companies, Solaris Vaccines and Cellia Science, as well as seven investments into established VIC portfolio companies. The network continues to show an exceptionally high rate of return for members.
Looking forward in 2022, we expect to continue to expand our portfolio, adding at least four new portfolio companies. Our opportunity assessment team has a strong pipeline of technologies at various stages of evaluation that can provide the foundational intellectual property for future companies. Each will have a large market opportunity and be backed by talented executive team members as well as the broad and deep expertise of the entire VIC innovation ecosystem. We will also continue to expand VIC Investor Network membership globally.
Look for the VIC Annual Report Executive Summary (available to all readers) and the full confidential Annual Report (available to VIC shareholders only) in February. I believe we have an exciting year ahead.
On behalf of the entire VIC team, I wish everyone a happy New Year and a productive 2022!
Chief Executive Officer | VIC Technology Venture Development
Co-Manager | VIC Investor Network