Johns Hopkins University, together with four financial partners, has created a $5.25 million venture capital fund to help faculty research make the long march from laboratory to marketplace, the university announced yesterday.
The fund, called Triad Investors Corp., will step in at the earliest stages of commercialization at Hopkins and elsewhere, providing seed money for prototypes, for instance, and negotiating licensing agreements before handing projects off to large venture-capital funds.
Triad's founders hope that the fund eventually will bring in a profit for the university, which is investing an unspecified share of the $5.25 million. Other investors are the Johns Hopkins Health System; Constellation Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., and Whiting-Turner Corp., both of Baltimore; and 3i Ventures Corp. of Boston. Later, Triad will seek additional investors.
"Triad is unequivocally a for-profit corporation, in business to make money from technology commercialization," said Jared L. Cohon, Hopkins's vice provost for research. In addition, he said, Triad is not required to invest only in Hopkins-generated technology, nor is the university required to sell its work only through Triad.
The fund is an attempt to add an ingredient to Maryland's high-technology industries that has been sorely lacking: money. Stanford University in California and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology encouraged commercialization early, helping create Silicon Valley and the Route 128 corridor in the process. Baltimore and the I-270 corridor have spawned many fledging high-tech firms, but they have been less financially successful.
Leigh Abts, Triad's executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the fund's structure lent itself well to the long lead times needed for commercialization. Unlike many venture capital funds that are set up as partnerships and must return proceeds to investors quickly, Triad was set up as a corporation with a long-term perspective. "We look to having investment dollars coming back years from now, not months from now," Abts said.
Hopkins-based projects already close to the commercial stage include a device to enhance vision for those with impairments, a metallic membrane honeycombed with tiny pores used for filtration, and composite ash metals that help reduce waste products from coal-fired power plants.