BioEnterprise: Cincinnati snags four top venture deals

Two Cincinnati-based health care startup companies were among the top four venture deals in Ohio in the first half of 2011, according to a new report by Cleveland-based BioEnterprise.

Blue Ash-based Akebia Therapeutics raised $14 million and Mason-based AssureRx Health raised $11 million during that time, joining Cleveland companies Athersys ($13 million) and Explorys ($11.5 million) in the top four.

Ohio ranked as the top state in terms of number of deals in the time period among 11 Midwestern states analyzed for the BioEnterprise Midwest Health Care Venture Investment Report. Ohio saw 25 deals; Minnesota was second with 13. (Kentucky ranked at sixth with four deals.)

Minnesota startups attracted the most dollars, $88 million, but Ohio was a close second with $80 million, BioEnterprise determined.

"While the number of companies funded remains high and similar to prior years, the total dollars invested is down compared to recent years," says Baiju Shah, president and CEO of BioEnterprise.

Shah says Midwestern growth-stage health care firms are increasingly being purchased rather than pursuing additional financing because of the economic climate.

In Ohio, Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky accounted for $23 million in venture deals, while Cleveland saw $50 million in activity and Columbus saw $6.1 million.

The Cincinnati region's total applied to four deals. That compares to two deals worth $7 million in the first half of 2010.

Both Akebia Therapeutics and AssureRx Health are portfolio companies of CincyTech, the region's seed-stage investment firm. Akebia has received about $500,000 from CincyTech since 2007 and more than $50 million total in venture financing, led by Novartis. AssureRx has received $1 million from CincyTech and a total of $15 million. Its $11 million round this spring was led by Silicon Valley firms Claremont Creek Capital and Sequoia Capital.

Akebia is a biopharmaceuticals company focused on the development of small molecules for the treatment of anemia and vascular disease. AssureRx has developed a genetic test that helps doctors more precisely determine dosage and medication for individuals.

CincyTech President Bob Coy says the firm has seen strong activity among health-care-related startups. 

"The interest among high-caliber venture investors in these startups shows the kinds of companies our region can produce when our research institutions, corporations, early-stage investors and entrepreneurial minds come together," says Coy.

By Sarah Blazak for CincyTech
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