DepYmed wins Accelerate funding

DepYmed CEO Andreas Grill.
By Gregory Zeller //

A Cold Spring Harbor biotech startup is the 10th and final recipient in the first co-funding round backed by Accelerate Long Island and the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund.

DepYmed, a joint venture of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and New York City-based biotech giant Ohr Pharmaceutical, will receive the 10th matching investment, with $50,000 coming from the regional business booster and $50,000 from the LIETF, a venture vehicle powered by Setauket investment firm Jove Equity Partners and Roslyn’s Topspin Fund.

Launched last year, DepYmed is currently in clinical development of a therapeutic candidate for HER2-positive breast cancer, which causes uncontrolled amplification in the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, a gene that produces pivotal protein cells.

The company’s science is based on research by Nicholas Tonks, deputy director of the CSHL Cancer Center. Clinical trials of enzyme inhibitor Trodesquemine are being conducted through the North Shore-LIJ Health System.

While the startup has received prior VC funding, the Accelerate/LIETF buy-in represents a critical capital injection for the fledgling biotech firm, according to CEO Andreas Grill, a drug-development veteran with over two decades of experience.

Before heading DepYmed, Grill founded Advanced Pharmaceutical Strategies, a drug-product development consulting firm operating within the cancer-therapeutics space. He’s also the former executive director of pharmaceutical research and development at the Forest Research Institute, a subsidiary of Forest Laboratories, now Allergan.

The funding announced Tuesday was no surprise – Grill and others knew for months that the last Accelerate/LIETF stipend was coming to DepYmed. But while the check was a relatively long time coming, Grill’s myriad experiences with government grants have taught him the virtue of patience.

“Whenever you’re looking for any type of government funding, you have to make sure everything is presented correctly,” he said. “It’s always difficult when you have to wait for funding, but that’s normal.”

Now that the $100,000 is in hand, Grill said company officials would invest it all into operations, primarily an overdue relocation to facilities in Farmingdale State College’s Broad Hollow Bioscience Park.

“This investment is definitely going to help us out,” Grill told Innovate LI. “This will go into general operations and help maintain them going forward.”

A best-case scenario, according to Grill, sees the release of a commercial product early in 2021, with Trodusquemine serving as a polytherapy alongside other breast cancer medications. With a lot of road between here and there, Grill said his company will be back in the hunt for new funding in 2016, “either through VCs or more governmental funding.”

The company is currently wrapping up a $500,000 Series A round – “as soon as possible,” the CEO said – and will “get into a much larger round once we attain that,” Grill added.

Mark Lesko, the former director of Accelerate Long Island who left the regional booster this year to become executive dean of Hofstra University’s new Center for Entrepreneurship, said the CSHL spinoff was the perfect candidate for the 10th and final Accelerate/LIETF investment.

“I look forward to the success of DepYmed and the other nine companies in the Accelerate Long Island portfolio,” Lesko said.

Envisagenics, a CSHL spinoff developing software to help pharma and biotech companies speed up drug discovery, was named the ninth Accelerate/LIETF funding recipient in July. Other regional startups earning joint $100,000 investments over the last 18 months were Codagenix, Goddard Labs, Green SulfCrete, Right Dose, PolyNova, Traverse Biosciences, SynchroPET, and Symbiotic Health.

Lesko, who still serves Accelerate Long Island in an advisory capacity, said the final joint investment with the LIETF does not mark the end for the regional booster. With Lesko shifting to Hofstra and the million-dollar LIETF collaboration complete, speculation about Accelerate’s future has abounded – but according to its former director, the organization is just getting started.

New York State announced in April that it was awarding $1.5 million to a new seed fund specifically for investment in downstate companies looking to commercialize research from local laboratories and universities. The fund – focused on Long Island, New York City and the Hudson Valley and expected to be bolstered by VC and SUNY investments – is managed by Accelerate and the SUNY Research Foundation.

“We’re looking forward to launching our second seed fund next year,” he said.