Student-Led Wolverine Venture Fund Invests in Sonitus Medical

The Wolverine Venture Fund, a $5.5 million fund led by students at the University of Michigan, announced last week that it joined Arboretum Ventures in a $25 million Series A investment in Sonitus Medical, a California-based medical device company. This is the second time the Wolverine Venture Fund has invested in Sonitus Medical. This time around, the Wolverine Fund invested $100,000 in Sonitus Medical; in March 2011, it invested $250,000. The round was led by Abingworth.

“It’s exciting—we expect to make money and we feel pretty good about  their product, which will make peoples’ lives better,” says Erik Gordon, associate director of U-M’s Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and managing director of the Wolverine Venture Fund. “For us, it’s a grand slam home run.”

Sonitus Medical has created the SoundBite prosthesis device for people who are deaf in one ear. Unlike the solutions of the past, Gordon says, which required patients to wear what was commonly referred to as a “Frankenstein plug” because of the way it looked, SoundBite uses the wearer’s bones and teeth to transmit sound from the ear that functions to the impaired ear.

SoundBite, which is both non-surgical and removable, has been cleared by the FDA for use in the treatment of single-sided deafness and conductive hearing loss. Sonitus Medical hopes to eventually use it to treat tinnitus and mixed hearing loss. “Single-sided deafness affects a person’s social life, family life, and career,” Gordon notes. “It’s an important problem with human ramifications, and we don’t invest in trivial things.”

The Wolverine Venture Fund, which launched in 1997, was the first student-led venture fund in the nation and is a key part of U-M’s philosophy of teaching entrepreneurship through action. Since its inception, the Wolverine Fund has invested in more than 20 companies. A team of six students (both MBAs and PhDs) run the fund and conduct all due dilligence. Gordon says he expects there will be another investment or two over the summer.

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