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RI VC Shop Slater Tech Fund Bets $250K on Sentient Bioscience to Develop Embolization Tools

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The Slater Technology Fund said yesterday that it will invest $250,000 in Providence, RI-based biotech startup Sentient Bioscience, which is developing embolization therapy technology and site-specific drug delivery methods to treat cancer and other medical conditions.

Sentient's co-founders include Timothy Murphy, a professor of diagnostic imaging at Brown University Medical School; Jean-Francois Geschwind, professor of radiology, surgery, and oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and Edith Mathiowitz, a professor of medical science and engineering at Brown.

Mathiowitz previously co-founded Slater-backed venture Spherics, which spun out of Brown in the late 1990s and eventually raised more than $50 million in venture capital and corporate funding to support development of its therapeutics for neurological disorders.

Sentient is currently "evaluating options" and "in discussions" with Brown and Johns Hopkins with respect to licensing intellectual property originating from both institutions, Richard Horan, senior managing director of the Slater Technology Fund, told BTW this week.

Horan declined to discuss further specifics of the pertinent IP portfolio at each institution.

Embolization therapy involves non-surgical, minimally invasive procedures designed to limit blood supply to benign and cancerous tumors, Slater said. Materials used to block this blood supply, known as embolics, can also deliver drugs to tumors in a more targeted manner than systemic administration, the firm said.

Sentient is developing polymer particles and methods designed to work alone or in combination with drugs and biologics being developed at pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The company said that it is bringing together "world-class polymer chemistry capabilities with recognized leaders in interventional radiology."

Murphy said in a statement that Sentient's mission is to "improve outcomes for individuals with benign and cancerous tumors through innovative products and techniques for the interventional radiology clinician. In doing so, we hope to build upon the outstanding reputation for clinical and research excellence that has been established here in Rhode Island."

Slater Tech Fund is a state-backed venture capital fund that invests in new ventures committed to remaining in Rhode Island. The firm said that it typically invests in the inception stage of new ventures that are often based on technologies from academic laboratories and government research labs.

Horan said that many of the fund's investments are in the life sciences and biomedical space.

The initial investment in Sentient is intended to be an "inception-stage cash infusion that has helped us organize the company in a legal sense," as well as begin discussions for licensing technology from Brown and Johns Hopkins, Horan said.

"The expectation is that if things progress as planned, we will continue to invest larger amounts and eventually seek co-investors," Horan added.

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