A Big Shot in the Arm

Biotech outfit ViaCell is one of only two companies to emerge from the Springboard 2000 meeting with VC funding

Venture-capital investing in the medical/biotechnology sector doubled to $2.2 billion in the third quarter of 2000, vs. $1.1 billion in the same period the previous year, according to Venture Economics information services.

One of the companies to benefit is Boston's ViaCell. Of the 31 outfits pitching their plans at the Springboard 2000 venture-capital forum in Boston on Nov. 3, it is one of only two to snag financing so far. A cellular pharmaceuticals company that focuses on stem-cell technology, ViaCell received $48 million -- $8 million more than it asked for.

The company, which offers stem-cell banking and is developing synthetic stem cells, received this second round of funding from a syndicate of banks, equity funds, and investors, including Nomura International in London and a division of Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt. ViaCell sees its technology as promising major advances in the treatment of leukemia, a variety of genetic disorders and immune deficiencies, and in controlling rejection after organ transplants.

With such life-and-death technology at stake, how could a hope to compete?

By Theresa Forsman in New York

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