2018 was a productive year for the Utah life sciences industry, with a concert of public, public-private, and private entities working together to lay the foundation to create new business and partnership opportunities between Utah and South Korea.
Overall, ten early-stage and startup life sciences companies from Utah were able to explore business development and partnership opportunities in Korea through the support of several economic development organizations.
“Our success as a state in Korea highlights what Team Utah can do when we collaborate,” said Miles Hansen, president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah.
Last spring, state partners coordinated a trip to Bio Korea, one of the world’s largest bio-industry trade shows. The Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR), WTC Utah, and Church & State, a non-profit business incubator, led Utah’s efforts at the trade show, along with financial support from the Center for Technology and Venture Commercialization (TVC) at the University of Utah and the Economic Development Corporation (EDCUtah).
Six companies— iVeena Delivery Systems, Photorithm, Progenitor Life Sciences, Q Therapeutics, T3S Technologies, and TheraTarget—who have all utilized USTAR programs participated in the trade show. State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grants were provided to the companies by WTC Utah.
While there, USTAR, Mountain Pacific Venture Fund, a Utah-based early-stage biotech investment firm, and LDD Partners, a local business consulting firm, coordinated opportunities for the six life sciences companies to meet with potential investors, network with strategic partners, and demonstrate their technologies to institutional customers.
One of the most significant outcomes of BioKorea was that it enabled Mountain Pacific Venture Fund to build a relationship with TY BIO Investment, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of South Korea-based Tongyang Networks Co., Ltd. In the months following the trade show, Mountain Pacific Venture Fund has announced two investment agreements to-date.
In August, Mountain Pacific Venture Fund closed the first institutional investment into its debut fund, securing a limited partner commitment from TY BIO Investment, Inc. In September, Navigen, another company supported by USTAR, received a seven-figure-investment funded by Mountain Pacific Venture Fund, TY BIO Investment, Inc., and University Venture Fund II.
In September, Governor Gary R. Herbert led a delegation of 20 Utah companies and six organizations on a trade mission to South Korea and Taiwan to boost trade and attract foreign investment to Utah. The trade mission was coordinated by the Governor’s Office, Governor’s Office of Economic Development and WTC Utah.
The trade mission provided the opportunity for USTAR to sign a memorandum of understanding with Yonsei University’s affiliated medical school in Seoul that will open up technology commercialization opportunities between Utah and the university. It will also create a soft-landing opportunity for Utah companies looking to expand into Korea or Korean companies interested in locating to the United States. The partnership is a result of earlier negotiations and meetings that were initiated earlier in the year at BioKorea.
Two Utah life sciences companies—IDbyDNA and Polarity TE—also participated in the trade mission, which provided opportunities for the two companies to explore potential research collaborations and meet with potential investors. IDbyDNA is another company who received support from USTAR to accelerate its technology commercialization.
“While we laid the groundwork in 2018, it is crucial we continue to assist Utah companies in following up on the opportunities—and finalizing partnerships—in Korea over the coming months and throughout the year,” said Hansen.
Utah will have the opportunity to build on the relationships established in Korea last year through BioKorea and the governor-led trade mission to the region. WTC Utah, and other partners such as USTAR, are once again collaborating to lead a group of companies to BioKorea in April 2019.