2020 Calendar Year Wrap Up
Investments By Sector
Driving Outcomes to Create Lasting Impact: Where We’re Looking in 2021
The late former governor Dick Thornburgh shepherded creation of the Ben Franklin partnership nearly 40 years ago as a response to the socioeconomic challenges that Pennsylvania faced in an economy that was transitioning in unprecedented ways. Just as then, Ben Franklin works to drive the real impact beyond innovation—and some key themes now guide us for the road ahead:
Collaboration will turn our region’s resilience into greater —and equitable—growth.
In March 2020, the region’s leaders rapidly convened to understand the pandemic’s effects, collaborating on solutions that resulted in the Chamber, City of Philadelphia, and many regional partners developing great frameworks for response and growth. The four Ben Franklin organizations in Pennsylvania partnered with the PA Department of Community and Economic Development to quickly mobilize $8 million to help our companies manage the pandemic’s effects. Many hands working together proved effective.
2020 asked us all to understand if our best intentions were making necessary progress for diverse and equitable economic growth, while focus sharpened on how high growth enterprises can expedite that. Our grant and partnership with Philly Startup Leaders was a response to a community call to action to support underrepresented founders, and a small step forward. The promise of our involvement in initiatives like 1Philadelphia offer us and many other partners the opportunity to align what we each do best to drive the long game for progress. Many hands together must make this happen, too.
Healthcare and innovation are very much “on brand” for Philadelphia.
In 2019, JLL cited Philadelphia’s emergence as a “new world city” because of its global influence in healthcare and innovation, bolstered by its concentration in cell and gene therapy. In 2020, by the time we understood what a pandemic was, many of the Ben Franklin companies were already working to fight COVID-19 and its effects. From Biomeme’s testing capabilities, to Roundtrip safely getting people to their doctors, our companies gave proof that novel solutions that solve global challenges are borne from our region. We’ve always known that we’ve done that – but others are catching on.
The world understands that capital can (and should) drive multiple outcomes.
It seemed like yesterday that we hosted discussions about how the new movement of impact investing had a place in technology and innovation for Philadelphia. Now in 2021, ImpactPHL and ImpactPHL Ventures turn five years old, and nearly 60% of our portfolio is aligned with more than one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development goals. And Ben Franklin—one of the earliest practitioners in this impact universe—nears our 40th anniversary with a mission as relevant as its day one.
For our city and region that never stopped changing, we were built for moments like this.
Let’s make some new impact together.
NextUp: The Philly Company Improving Rapid Molecular Tests for COVID-19
Biomeme has invented a coronavirus test that can be evaluated outside of traditional lab settings and can deliver accurate results in an hour or less. Biomeme’s flagship product is a real-time PCR thermocycler that can be used in or outside of a traditional lab setting, enabling on-the-go DNA diagnostics and real-time disease surveillance.Unlike most lab-bound molecular testing solutions, Biomeme’s entire platform — including the test; an easy-to-use sample prep kit; a hand-held, battery-operated PCR thermocycler; and a companion app that can operate on any smartphone — can fit inside a small backpack.
Biomeme’s solution can turn places such as drive-thru sample collection locations into satellite testing sites where results can be given on the spot — a big boon for improving COVID-19 testing, especially in locations where access to a lab or electrical power isn’t always an option.
Smithfield Foods Taps Montco Animal Health Firm to Save its Bacon
MBF Therapeutics Inc., a Montgomery County company developing DNA-based immunotherapeutic vaccines for animals, has signed an agreement with Smithfield Foods to collaborate on new swine vaccines.
Their goal is to develop swine vaccines with the potential to reduce the use of antibiotics in pork production and chronic disease in pigs by eliciting responses in both T-cells and B-cells. Vaccine candidates will be based on MBF’s proprietary gene-based, T-cell directed vaccine platform and novel calcium phosphate delivery system. MBF’s T-cell immunotherapy platform, which is designed to produce vaccines that precisely target selected antigens associated with infectious pathogens as well as cancer cells, involves checkpoint inhibitor technology licensed exclusively from the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. Checkpoint inhibitors are a type of drug that blocks certain proteins made by the immune system that can keep T-cells from killing cancer cells and pathogens.
Inside Annovis Bio’s $13.8 Million IPO
Maria Maccecchini made no effort to hide her glee a day after her company completed a multimillion-dollar initial public stock offering.
Annovis ended up raising a total of $13.8 million from its IPO. Maccecchini, a biotech entrepreneur and neuroscientist, founded the biopharmaceutical company — originally called QR Pharma — in 2008. Its goal is to develop new treatments for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, neurological disorders which, she said, are linked by the similar way in which brain cells die.
The approach Annovis is taking with ANVS401 is different than what’s been tried in the past. The therapy is designed to inhibit more than one neurotoxic protein simultaneously to improve “the information highway” impacting nerve cell function known as axonal transport. Annovis noted when such “information flow” is impaired, nerve cells get sick and die.
RealLIST Startups to Watch: CareAlign
This health IT company which makes a clinical workflow platform used by physicians, has been steadily seeing growth over the last few years since it launched in 2018. The startup, founded by CEO Dr. Subha Airan-Javia, was originally developed at Penn’s health system. Earlier this year, it raised a $1 million seed round and rebranded from its former name, TrekIt Health.
The rebrand comes along with a new partnership with HealthShare Exchange, a nonprofit that makes electronic patient health info available securely at healthcare systems throughout Greater Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, and will allow data and tech companies to access a larger pool of patient data in order to make better clinical decisions. The startup makes the list this year after appearing on 2020’s as a runner up.
Backed by Local Resources and Corporate Lessons, Emeka Oguh’s PeopleJoy is on a Mission to Boost Financial Wellness
PeopleJoy, which is based in University City, bills itself as a “personal student loan assistant in your back pocket,” helping borrowers manage their loans while offering financial consultations and paperwork e-filing. It also works with employers to create student debt management strategies for employees.
As a financial company that aims to help others, PeopleJoy’s services have been in high demand during the pandemic and resulting economic downturn. With many people losing jobs or being furloughed, Oguh said having empathy is at the core of PeopleJoy’s work. The debt management focus of the work his company does has allowed PeopleJoy to help people plan for their future.
Autonomous drone company to partner with FedEx at MEM
Asylon, which specializes in security drone robotics, plans to run its drones at the airport as part of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority’s (MSCAA) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP).
The company will deploy its DroneCore Security System at Memphis International Airport (MEM) this month, according to Michael Quiroga, chief revenue officer for Asylon. Quiroga explained that Asylon will work with FedEx to conduct automated perimeter security patrols, runway inspections, and other automated missions.
“Working with MSCAA and FedEx, Asylon will be conducting on-airport flight test and data collection under the DOT/FAA Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program to help develop federal policies and procedures for the safe integration of drones in an airport environment,” Quiroga said. “The Memphis International Airport was selected for the UAS IPP program to enable drone testing at one of the largest cargo hubs and busiest airports in the country.”
Atlanta’s Fresenius Medical Care North America Selects Tridiuum to Pilot Integrated Behavioral Health Program for People Living with Kidney Disease
Tridiuum, the nation’s premier provider of digital behavioral health solutions, announced it has been selected for a first-of-its kind behavioral health pilot with Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA), the nation’s leading provider of kidney care products and services. The pilot, which will begin with dialysis centers in the North Georgia area, will integrate the Tridiuum ONE platform into the company’s clinical workflow for early identification of patients’ behavioral health issues.
Studies show that behavioral health conditions including depression and anxiety disorders are prevalent in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). These conditions often impact patients’ overall quality of life and can lead to longer hospitalizations and higher mortality. Undiagnosed behavioral conditions can directly affect a patient’s adherence to lifesaving treatment and medication regimens.
Funding in the News
Partnerships That Build the Philadelphia Region
Save Our Startups Initiative
Save Our Startups Initiative Helps Companies Withstand Pandemic and Develop New Solutions
Through its Save Our Startups initiative (SOS), made possible with support from the Department of Community and Economic Development, Ben Franklin deployed $2 million to 38 early-stage companies in the Philadelphia region between May and June 2020. The funds helped companies withstand the pandemic’s effects on their business, and develop new technologies to fight COVID-19 and its indirect effects.
23 companies received zero-interest loans to mitigate the loss of revenues caused by the pandemic, while 15 grants were issued to companies working to improve such conditions as effectiveness of vaccines, PPE device and decontamination manufacturing, remote healthcare, and exchange of safety-related information within residential buildings. The grants were deployed through the research and development partners within Ben Franklin’s PRIMA initiative, which is supported by the US Economic Development Administration.
Ben Franklin Commits Grant and Support to Philly Startup Leaders’ Founded in Philly Accelerator
To increase the Philadelphia region’s support and development of companies led by underrepresented founders, Ben Franklin committed a grant of $150,000 for Philly Startup Leaders’ (PSL) Founded in Philly accelerator, along with a commitment of Ben Franklin’s staff time, network, and other support resources. Ben Franklin will increase its contribution to $250,000 if other investors match this pledge. Our commitment supplemented grants from the City of Philadelphia and goPuff.
PSL is utilizing Ben Franklin’s grant to develop and support emerging technology companies led by underrepresented founders, to further develop the region’s pipeline of high-growth investment opportunities. PSL will deploy the funds as grants to qualified technology-based ventures located within the five-county Philadelphia region that complete PSL’s accelerator programming.