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Hopkins startups, including student-led ventures, raised over $1B in FY21

Christy Wyskiel, executive director of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures. (Submitted Photo)

Johns Hopkins researchers and entrepreneurs saw a year of successes, receiving over $1 billion, including over $700 million in venture capital, in fiscal year 2021, according to Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ annual report 

The report showed that JHTV, a division at Hopkins founded in 2014 that works with Hopkins researchers to translate their research into commercial applications, supported 174 active startups and 123 student ventures as well as 10 social innovation ventures this past year.  

Additionally, JHTV received more than 400 reports of invention — a process through which Hopkins faculty members can inform JHTV of a new technology they’ve created in order to begin the commercialization process — in fiscal year 2021. This number is higher than average, despite worries that COVID-19 might decrease the number submitted. 

Among the successful companies in JHTV’s portfolio this year was Thrive Earlier Detection Corp., a company that was born from research at Hopkins and maintains an office in Baltimore. The health care company, which seeks to integrate cancer screenings into routine medical care to catch cancers early, received $257 million in Series B funding to advance technology to screen for tumors through a blood test. The company was also acquired in January for $2.1 billion.  

Two other cancer diagnostics companies supported by JHTV, Delfi Diagnostics and Personal Genome Diagnostics, also raised over $100 million each that they used to develop cancer detection products. 

Other businesses highlighted in the report include LifeSprout, a regenerative medicine company that closed a $28.5 million Series A financing round in April, and AsclepiX Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company focused on treatments for retinal and other diseases, that received $35 million in its Series A round last summer. 

It also was a successful year for student-run ventures supported through JHTV’s FastForward U program. These startups raised a collective $29.7 million over the year, and through its Spark and Fuel accelerator, a competitive program for student-helmed companies that is currently in its second year, FastForward U contributed $40,000 in stipends and over $30,000 in startup prizes to student teams.  

At the accelerator’s Demo Day competition, Relavo, a medical company that seeks to make safer at-home dialysis for kidney failure patients, won the $15,000 grand prize in the Spark category, which is for later-stage ventures. Sifter, an online platform that helps patients compare telemedicine options, won a $3,000 prize in the Fuel category, for early-stage ventures.  

FastForward U also awarded $110,000 in funding to eight student startups through its inaugural Innovation & Entrepreneurship challenge, which aimed to allow students to continue working on their projects over the summer without having to also hold a job or internship. The prize included funding for room and board and access to coworking space and mentorship. 

Ten companies participated in JHTV’s Social Innovation Lab 2020-2021 cohort, with Dyslexia Advocation, a nonprofit that helps parents get the tools and resources they need to advocate for their dyslexic children, receiving the $25,000 cohort prize. The Social Innovation Lab also hired a new director in late 2020, Madison Marks, who had spent the previous three years working to support social innovators in the Middle East. 

JHTV also focused on diversity and inclusion throughout the fiscal year to assist women- and minority-owned startups. It launched the Pitch It On! Competition for female inventors at Hopkins, awarding $10,000 to winner Sridevi V. Sarma for her product EZTrack, which creates a heat map of the brain to help doctors identify the sources of seizures in drug-resistant epilepsy patients. 

Additionally, many of the teams supported by FastForward U were women- and minority-led. More than 50% of those who participated in the Spark and Fuel accelerator, for example, were founded by people of color; three out of eight of the teams in the Fuel division were led by women, as were seven out of the 12 in the Spark division.

This year’s Social Innovation Lab cohort was also diverse; nine out of 10 founders were people of color, and seven were women. 

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