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Metro Newsroom

Life Sciences Venture Fund Earns SBI Approval, Will Open Louisville Office

Monday October 4, 2004

Triathlon Medical Ventures, LLC, a $96 million, Midwest-based venture capital fund focused exclusively on life science investments, has been licensed as a Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) and will open an office in Louisville.

Triathlon will make private equity investments in emerging life science companies, including those that may grow out of research taking place at Kentucky universities, said Suzette Dutch, a Triathlon founder. The firm will focus on early-stage companies in the Midwest and expansion-stage companies nationwide.

Louisville organizations made up $5 million of the Triathlon’s initial investment, which was matched with federal funds through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Investors Included the University of Louisville Foundation, Norton Healthcare, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Jewish Hospital.

Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson said Triathlon’s location in Louisville can translate into economic development opportunities.

“Triathlon’s strategy is to seek investment opportunities in the communities where they are active and have offices,” he said. “More investment will mean that more start-ups and early stage venture capital efforts will take root here and – we hope – ultimately grow into commercial successes that will bring jobs, high salaries, benefits and additional investment and activity in our community.”

Abramson credited University of Louisville President James Ramsey and initial local investors for leading the effort to bring venture capital funding to Louisville.
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“We’re already proving that high-tech, life sciences companies can find a home in our community,” said Ramsey, citing existing companies that grew from U of L faculty research. “The life sciences fund created through Triathlon has the potential to quicken the pace. These investments can translate into faster development of treatments and devices that will contribute to our quality of life, as well as to the economic development of the region.”
Ramsey and Abramson said they hoped other community investors would step up to the plate. Ramsey said the group also plans to seek investors for a “seed fund” of at least $3 million to help researchers develop business plans prior to qualifying for venture capital funding.

Dutch, one of three partners in the Cincinnati-based Triathlon, praised “the collaboration evident in the cross section of Kentucky investors representing academic and medical institutions as well as private organizations.”

She said Triathlon identified Louisville “because we feel that Kentucky’s academic and medical assets, coupled with the historic dearth of life sciences focused, professionally managed venture capital, provide fertile ground for achieving our financial objectives.”

Investors said they supported the initiative in part because of its potential community impact.
“We are pleased to be a part of this group of investors investing in a venture capital fund that will focus on emerging life science companies in our community,” said Hank Wagner, president of Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services. “The effort will be positive for the Louisville Medical Community, the entire State of Kentucky and this region."

Patrick Cecil, chief financial officer of the Presbyterian Seminary, said "the Seminary evaluated and ultimately decided to participate in this endeavor because it felt the capital venture provided a sound investment opportunity that fit well within the private equity allocation of Louisville Seminary's endowment."
"Additionally, Triathlon will provide an opportunity for the Seminary, through its investments activities, to participate in economic development efforts within the Louisville community in which we operate,” Cecil added.

“The companies in which Triathlon may invest could potentially develop breakthroughs in medical research that could benefit humanity. When evaluating all of these things in aggregate, it was an opportunity about which we became very excited." George Emont, who brings 19 years of experience in health care and life sciences as both a venture fund manager and CEO of an early stage, venture-backed biotech company, will head Triathlon’s Louisville office. He said the location is likely to be near the Louisville Medical Center. Triathlon will also open offices in Indiana and St. Louis in addition to its Louisville and Cincinnati offices.