Feature: Cleveland Clinic leads kick off for start-up incubator

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The next breakthrough drug or device in cardiovascular medicine might have its beginnings in Cleveland. A start-up company incubator, which is focused on helping companies develop cardiovascular drug therapies, devices and services, is projected to open in May—in close proximity to its leading partner, the Cleveland Clinic.

The incubator is a component of the Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center (GCIC), established in 2007, which was funded by Ohio's Third Frontier Project via a $60 million grant made to the Cleveland Clinic.

"The grant mandated establishing a center directed toward promoting, supporting and funding the development of solutions in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease and to establish an economic benefit within the state of Ohio," Mark Low, managing director of GCIC, told Cardiovascular Business News.

While the Cleveland Clinic leads the GCIC effort, five other Ohio institutions are involved: Case Western Reserve University, Ohio State University, University of Cincinnati, University of Toledo and University Hospitals of Cleveland. GCIC is partnered with local businesses and community organizations as well.

GCIC provides several interconnected programs for companies, which include:

  • Funding, to help young companies move out of the lab and on the road to commercialization;
  • Attraction, to help attract bioscience businesses to Ohio; and
  • Product acceleration, which includes availability of industry experts to consult with new companies to help them determine an effective timeline, navigate regulatory agencies, run clinical trials and obtain follow-up funding.

The new business incubator program is a key component of GCIC. Several companies have begun the process of becoming tenants in the incubator's new 50,000-square foot building. A few of these companies are spin-offs from research originating at the Cleveland Clinic. Overall, the products of these companies include drugs to treat heart disease, stem cell and regenerative medicines, cardiac diagnostic biomarkers to help predict that might suffer from various types of heart disease, scaffolding devices to treat peripheral arterial disease and ventricular assist devices.

The incubator has 20 labs, 32 offices, furniture, phone and internet access and a common area for shared resources such as sterilizer machines, glass wash, flammable materials storage and a state-of-the-art conference/video meeting space, according to Kimberly Gilyard, incubator program manager.

"The space was designed so that companies can start in an office and grow into the lab, or go directly into lab space, depending on their size and stage of development. It's also convenient because everything they need is here," said Gilyard, adding that the companies also have access to physicians and scientists from the surrounding institutions.

Low and Gilyard expect the incubator building to be fully occupied by the end of the year. GCIC has already attracted more than a dozen companies to Ohio in the last three years and has granted more than $14 million in funding via 48 separate grants. GCIC-funded companies and projects have gone on to raise more than $160 million in additional grants and financing to date, Low said.

GCIC's business support services include providing access to venture capitalists. Several venture capitalists are represented on GCIC's commercialization advisory board and regularly monitor GCIC portfolio companies as well as the Cleveland Clinic for investment opportunities. "So having access to some of the best researchers and physicians in cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, as well as the other involved institutions, is another one of those 'litmus tests' for venture capitalists seeking solid investment opportunities," Low said.