The Sorenson Impact Center’s University Venture Fund—Impact Investing (UVF II) closed its first investment in a seed round into Salt Lake City-based Navigen, Inc. UVF II’s investment was highly catalytic, unlocking over $1.5 million additional investment capital into the pharmaceutical company. Navigen, Inc. is an early stage drug discovery and development company that has developed a D-peptide drug discovery platform to create a new class of drugs to significantly improve the quality of life for those suffering from some of the world’s gravest maladies, including HIV, cancer and inflammatory diseases.
The $8.2 million UVF II, a descendant of the original UVF founded in 2001, provides students the opportunity to be instrumental in due diligence early stage social enterprises, build financial models based on interviews and market research and present findings and advice to a board of seasoned investors in pursuit of impact investments across the equity financing spectrum.
“We are thrilled to announce the first investment of UVF II into Navigen, a company that perfectly fits our investment thesis of both seeking great impact and providing the possibility of dynamic financial return,” said Jeramy Lund, the managing director of UVF II.
Navigen is developing drugs designed for targets that are difficult or impossible to safely affect with current drugs. Two of the company’s current development programs address diseases for which today’s drugs have dangerous side effects.
Lund added, “Navigen’s model of establishing its drugs’ safety and human efficacy then quickly licensing them to a larger company with the resources to conduct more extensive human trials is practical. If its drugs are successful, the lives of vulnerable people will significantly change, and our investment will deliver a great return for our LPs.”
The need for innovative therapeutics is vast. Over 1.2 million individuals in the U.S. suffer from HIV, yet currently only 30 percent are successfully suppressing their virus with drug therapy. Navigen’s HIV drug, CPT31, which will begin human trials shortly, has shown promising results in its initial testing and development. Due to the nature of D-peptide drugs, Navigen leadership believes that patients will experience fewer side effects and will have a much smaller chance of developing drug resistance.
Brandi Simpson, CEO of Navigen Pharmaceuticals, said of her experience working with UVF II, “I enjoyed working with the students. I was very impressed by their thoroughness and the rigor of their analysis.”
One student, Elena Ma, a doctoral candidate in medicinal chemistry at the University of Utah who worked with Simpson on the deal, said, “It was an incredible experience for us to practice analytical thinking and financial skills on a real deal while knowing we are catalyzing a positive social impact and potentially benefiting millions of HIV patients.”
About University Venture Fund II
University Venture Fund II is an independent venture fund that leverages the innovation of students from around the country, promoting entrepreneurship by creating a forum of students to be directly involved in venture capital. UVF has invested alongside many nationally recognized venture funds including Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Benchmark Capital, Battery Ventures, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Opus Capital and Best-Buy Capital. For more information, visit uventurefund.com.
About the Sorenson Impact Center
The Sorenson Impact Center, housed at the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah, is a think-and-do tank that marshals capital for social good, empowers data-driven programs, breaks down silos across sectors and equips the next generation of leaders with social purpose. To learn more, visit sorensonimpact.com.
Navigen is a private drug discovery and development company founded by a team of industry veterans with a history of successfully advancing novel therapeutics. The company has built a world class D-peptide drug-discovery platform and can screen up to 50 billion unique peptides in a matter of months. Navigen is leveraging its unparalleled experience working with D-peptides to bring forward a range of promising programs with the potential to address many critical areas of unmet medical need. It is currently developing D-peptides in three therapeutic areas: infectious disease, inflammation and cancer immunotherapy. For more information, visit nvgn.com.