Life sciences investor SOSV looks for start-ups focused on covid-19 solutions

SOSV's labs, which have remained open during the national lockdown, have already worked with more than a dozen start-ups on the front lines of the covid-19 response.

The venture firm SOSV, which operates life science incubators in New York and San Francisco, is accepting applications for start-ups that focus on solutions to the covid-19 pandemic.

Accepted applicants will work at one of the firm’s two IndieBio accelerator operations, either in downtown San Francisco or its newly opened New York facility at Rockefeller University in Manhattan.

SOSV expects to accept eight startups to join its accelerator program for an anticipated May 4 start date. Each start-up will initially receive a minimum of $250,000 to develop diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, disinfection or other solutions addressing the worldwide problem of emerging infectious diseases, including the coronavirus.

Sean O’Sullivan, managing general partner who founded SOSV in 1995, told Venture Capital Journal that the firm’s accelerator operations are staffed with PhDs and MDs with specialties in infectious diseases, microbiology, drug development and regulatory approval processes. He said the organization can help put the start-up entrepreneurs in touch with venture firms.

“We know the gatekeepers of industry and science, and we can make the intros,” O’Sullivan said. “We have the deep tech background.”

O’Sullivan said that co-founders and workers of the eight selected start-ups may opt to attend the accelerator via teleconferencing. Access to the facilities could vary depending on whether government regulations change according to the national emergency.

SOSV’s labs have thus far remained open during the national lockdown as “essential businesses.”

To date, SOSV says that more than a dozen of their supported start-ups are already working on the front lines of the covid-19 response.

This includes Verdex Technologies, which has developed a nanofiber material that makes better masks for caregivers. The company is making samples now and is looking to scale up machines to produce masks in greater quantity.

Another SOSV company that is working on covid-19 treatments is Renegade Bio, which is developing a testing service to be used by first responders in the San Francisco Bay Area. Renegade invented an improvement on the CDC testing method, without the use of RNA extraction.

SOSV has also supported Prellis Biologics. The San Francisco company is developing fully human antibodies to covid-19 that the company says will provide three months of temporary immunity.

SOSV, which in December raised $277 million for its fourth fund, has backed nearly 200 life science start-ups in the past five years. The start-ups have raised more than $700 million in follow-on funding, and have a combined valuation of more than $3 billion, according to SOSV.

In the life sciences arena, SOSV also invests in human and planetary health, including plant-based foods, cellular agriculture, computational biology and regenerative medicine.

Action Item: Check out IndieBio’s coronavirus initiative at indiebio.co/indiebio-covid-response.