Bioscience Authority nabs federal dollars to boost industry supporting initiatives


By Jacob Maranda  New Mexico Inno

The New Mexico Bioscience Authority landed a chunk of federal dollars to further its industry supporting work as the bioscience sector starts to see increased attention from government and business leaders throughout the state.

In May, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) awarded $50,000 to the Bioscience Authority under the University of New Mexico as part of its Growth Accelerator Fund competition. Then, after applying for the second stage of the competition, the Authority grabbed an additional $150,000 in federal funding, the Administration announced Wednesday, bringing in a total of $200,000 for the industry supporting organization.

Stephanie Tofighi, the executive director of the Bioscience Authority, said the organization plans to use that money for three primary things, including a partnership with an out-of-state technology firm.

That company, called EcoMap Technologies, is based in Baltimore and has an AI-backed web platform for industry associations to connect community members with jobs, other organizations and access to additional resources. Tofighi told Albuquerque Business First the Bioscience Authority wants to use the platform to make resources available in New Mexico more accessible.

That’s the biggest piece of the Authority’s work through the SBA program, she added. But besides its work with EcoMap, Tofighi said the Bioscience Authority also plans to use the federal funding to hold quarterly events throughout the state, and to help facilitate transportation to those events.

For instance, she said the Authority plans to host an event in Socorro in early November to introduce the bioscience ecosystem to people working in technology transfer and at national laboratories and universities in the state.

And, Tofighi said the Bioscience Authority wants to strike up a partnership with New Mexico Angels, an angel membership organization that operates in the state. That partnership would provide companies the Authority works with more access to mentoring and networking resources offered by the Angels, she said.

The Bioscience Authority and the New Mexico Vintage Fund, a generalist microfund in the state that’s closely associated with the New Mexico Angels, previously partnered to invest $225,000 in Albuquerque biotech startup BennuBio.

“This is another step in that development,” Drew Tulchin, New Mexico Angels’ president and the managing partner of the New Mexico Vintage Fund, said. The pair — the Bioscience Authority and the Vintage Fund — created a separate LLC to facilitate the BennuBio investment, according to a press release from late last year when the investment was announced.

“We are very supportive of their efforts to launch a venture fund focused on biosciences and medical technology,” Tulchin added. “We’re all going to work together to support bioscience throughout the state.”

One of the Bioscience Authority’s core programs is a co-investment opportunity for New Mexico startups to get matched funding from the state and VC firms. A proposed bill that would have put $25 million in state money behind that co-investment fund was vetoed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham during the latest legislative session.

But Tofighi said the Authority plans to re-up its support for the bill during the upcoming New Mexico legislative session. State support in the form of funding is a key part of growing the bioscience sector in New Mexico over the next several years, she added.

“If companies do not have that up-front funding, they’re going to go where they can get it,” Tofighi said. “And there are a lot of states out there that do see the merit of biotech, and they have the money to be able to spend and they’re willing to spend it.

“So if we’re going to keep the companies that we already have or we’re going attract companies to move here, we have to be able to have that funding in place,” she continued.

New Mexico created the Bioscience Authority through an act passed in spring 2017. It’s administratively attached to the University of New Mexico and gets money from a mix of sources, including grants, donations and federal and state appropriations.

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