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essentially kept it going himself as a virtual operation for about two years, eventually hit paydirt when he and DiStefano got connected to Geesaman. He was basically between jobs after his first Accelerator startup (GPC-Rx, later renamed PharmSelex) was shut down. Geesaman liked the idea, and the people were familiar. DiStefano and Jain are now serving as “highly involved” consultants to Acylin, and may join the company full-time in the future if it hits its technical milestones and attracts more financing.
“It’s like the Blues Brothers,” Weissman says. “We’re putting the band back together.”
Accelerator is known for providing a lot of business and lab support so entrepreneurs can focus on the scientific milestones they need to meet to win further venture capital support, and essentially grow up into independent companies. Usually, these startups require about 18 to 24 months to hit their milestones and “graduate” with significant wads of cash, like Accelerator alumni VLST, Allozyne, Theraclone Sciences, and Integrated Diagnostics have done over the past five years. In this case, Acylin ought to be able to hit its milestones in 15 to 18 months, Geesaman says.
But like almost everything at the early stages where Accelerator gets involved, this is easier said than done. Many of the enzymes Acylin seeks to specifically target are quite similar structurally to non-disease related enzymes, which means that traditionally it has been “very difficult to make them specific” to a certain disease-related target, Geesaman says.
The latest investment caps off what has been an unusually slow stretch for Accelerator, which founded its last company about 18 months ago—Xori. Weissman, as he said in a story back in January, noted that Accelerator isn’t under any pressure to make a set number of investments per year, and that it has the luxury of being able to move only when it sees what it considers a truly big opportunity. By investing in Acylin, Accelerator has enough cash left on hand to invest in two more companies before it will have to reload with another fund, Weissman says.
“It’s been a slack time, but not because of capital constraints,” Weissman says. “We haven’t found any companies lately, other than this one, that we are really excited about.”
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