Patient advocacy groups are continuing to push the boundaries of venture philanthropy, which enables them to invest in for-profit firms in order to reach their charitable goals. JDRF, a type 1 diabetes-focused nonprofit, and life sciences development firm PureTech Ventures will launch T1D Innovations, a financial vehicle for the creation of drug discovery companies that target type 1 diabetes.
In recent years, many disease advocacy groups have moved from providing grants for basic research to directly funding drug firms. That shift has helped fill a once-empty pipeline for many diseases.
Still, “we didn’t feel like this went far enough,” says PureTech partner David Steinberg. Under the previous model, advocacy groups had to wait until a promising project morphed into a company before they could invest in it. As a consequence, Steinberg notes, “a lot of good ideas were left on the cutting-room floor.”
JDRF has committed $5 million to T1D Innovations, which will form companies, often out of academia, focused on type 1 diabetes therapies, diagnostics, devices, and even apps. PureTech is now seeking other investors, with a goal of securing up to $30 million.
Start-ups will conduct proof-of-concept experiments. The data generated will ideally attract more venture money or a strategic partner to further develop the project.
Other patient advocacy groups will be watching. “We’ve certainly considered a partnership like the one that JDRF has done,” says Louis J. DeGennaro, chief mission officer of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which is exploring legal and organizational issues involved.