How It Works
Venture philanthropy is a relatively new model in disease-focused healthcare philanthropy that has resulted in new treatments for juvenile diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and other rare, debilitating illnesses. It is similar to venture capital – significant money is invested in for-profit companies that show promise – but with one critical difference. Venture philanthropists, and organizations like UMDF that house the funds, do not benefit financially from their investment.
There is no profit motive. Instead, any financial returns on successful investments are funneled directly back to the philanthropic fund to be re-invested in new ventures. More targeted shots on goal means a greater likelihood of success in the search for treatments and cures.
Oversight of The Mito Fund
The Mito Fund at UMDF is managed by the board-approved Venture Philanthropy Investment Committee (VPIC). Established in October 2022, the VPIC consists of three ex-officio members (UMDF President & CEO, Science & Alliance Officer, and Board of Trustees Chair) and select members with knowledge and experience in the life sciences and/or investment arenas.
As a steward of UMDF resources, the VPIC performs due diligence on all potential investments on a regular and ad hoc basis. In addition, the VPIC serves as counsel on the portfolio of investments to ensure continued alignment with the UMDF mission, to foster balance among indications, and to manage overall portfolio risk commensurate with the potential for financial return to support the long-term mission of the organization. The VPIC is actively researching investment opportunities, drawn from the extensive web of relationships cultivated by UMDF over the last 25 years in the scientific and biotech corporate worlds, including those serving on the UMDF Scientific and Medical Advisory Board. Ultimately, the VPIC makes investment recommendations which go to the full UMDF Board of Trustees for a vote.
Based on decades of active involvement in vetting and funding academic research in mitochondrial disease and function, the investments are focused on the most promising developments in i) medical devices, ii) small molecules (traditional drug development using novel chemical matter,) and iii) biologics (drugs such as gene and cell therapies made from complex molecules manufactured using living microorganisms, plants, or animal cells.)
Each potential investment is subject to a rigorous process of due diligence to determine not just the scientific merit of the project and potential impact on clinical care, but also the path to commercial success based on the company’s business plan, financial position, management team, and intellectual property portfolio.
There may also be opportunities to invest in companies researching mitochondrial dysfunction in other diseases. Because mitochondria impact processes in every living organism, there is always the potential for “crossover” discoveries that could ultimately benefit those with primary mitochondrial disease. A Mito Fund investment could provide critical funding for such a breakthrough.
Identifying & Researching
In the first two years, The Mito Fund will identify and invest in a portfolio of four to six companies, with an eye to double the initial portfolio size in the three year.
Calculating Risk vs Reward
Funding The Best Science
Investments are focused on the most promising developments in i) medical devices, ii) small molecules (traditional drug development using novel chemical matter,) and iii) biologics (drugs such as gene and cell therapies made from complex molecules manufactured using living microorganisms, plants, or animal cells.)