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AgTech Accelerator Launches First Startup Bringing Gates Foundation to Boragen $10m Series A

March 2, 2017

AgTech Accelerator, the venture development organization, has launched its first startup, Boragen, leading a $10 million Series A for the ag biotech startup.

AgTech Accelerator invested $3 million of its current $20 million capital pool and facilitated the further $7 million from its syndicate of investors — which now includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and existing investors in Boragen’s technology.

The deal highlights the flexibility of the AgTech Accelerator model, said John Dombrosky, CEO of the organization.

“Because of the quality of the investors involved in AgTech Accelerator, we can bring interesting deals to them and quickly raise more funds than they’d originally committed,” he told AgFunderNews.

Boragen is initially focusing on next generation, synthetic fungicides using a technology with a novel mode of action. It is working to fight the pest resistance inherent in many existing fungicides, which have just a single-site mode of action.

The technology, which includes a novel class of small molecules involving a Boron atom, was originally developed for the healthcare industry as an anti-fungal. The co-founders include Lucy Shapiro, the National Medal of Science winner, and renowned human health scientists Gerry Fink and Paul Schimmel. Also working on the technology was Stephen Benkovic who, along with Penn State researcher C. Tony Liu and others, worked on the crossover into agriculture. The technology could be applied to other parts of agriculture too, including animal health.

“We got the proof of concept as far as we could at Penn State but realized we needed more business and commercial help and found AgTech Accelerator,” said Liu. “John put together an incredible team including senior management of agriculture companies with so much experience on all fronts.”

Dombrosky will become CEO of Boragen for the next year at least as the AgTech Accelerator team and investor syndicate work to take the technology to the next phase of its growth. This will include science advisory, business expertise, financial accounting help, and so on, all taking place at Boragen’s new headquarters at AgTech Accelerator’s facilities in Research Triangle Park. It’s too early to tell how long Boragen will spend in RTP with AgTech Accelerator.

“We have great plans for this funding, and we’ve got a line of sight to the company’s lead products to work on immediately, so we will see how time progresses,” said Dombrosky. “When they need to raise another round in about 12 months time, we can assess their options.” 

Boragen’s board includes Kristina Burow, managing director of ARCH Venture Partners, Joel S. Marcus, co-founder and chairman of AgTech Accelerator and Alexandria Venture Investments, Paul Schimmel, professor, department of cell and molecular biology at The Scripps Research Institute and MacArthur professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

AgTech Accelerator’s investors include Alexandria Venture Investments, ARCH Venture Partners, Bayer, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Elanco Animal Health, Flagship Pioneering, Hatteras Venture Partners, Mountain Group Capital, Pappas Capital and Syngenta Ventures.

Not all of them invested directly in Boragen beyond their commitment via AgTech Accelerator.

Read more about AgTech Accelerator’s model in our earlier story: AgTech Accelerator: Taking Early Stage Funding to New Heights with Syngenta, Bayer and 8 Universities.


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