State to invest $5 million in the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center (PABC) to support early stage companies at its two incubators  

Hatch Biofund to Launch Impact Fund to Advance COVID-19 Therapeutics


April 24, 2020, Doylestown, Pa. – Hatch Biofund Management LLC today announced that it was creating a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in advance of the first close of their Hatch Biofund I venture fund slated for this summer. The SPV will be formed by calling in some of the Hatch Biofund I $50 million funding early, in order to provide capital to promising companies located in the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center (PABC) that are working on therapeutics or diagnostics for the COVID-19 Virus. The Hatch COVID-19 SPV will invest in three to four companies that the Hatch Scientific Advisory Board and Investment Committee selects.

Recently cited as one of the top life sciences incubators in the country, PABC is home to the nonprofit Baruch S. Blumberg Institute, one of the premier virology research centers in the world. For over 16 years Blumberg has gained invaluable experience in fighting viruses as it sought a cure for the hepatitis B virus.

Dr. Timothy M. Block, Founder and President of the PABC and Blumberg Institute explained: “The PABC in general, and the Blumberg, in particular, have been home to some of the most successful and accomplished drug discovery scientists in the nation. Several scientists here have seen their discoveries go from their labs to clinical trials, and on to approval by the FDA.”  Blumberg and the start-ups at the PABC have remained open throughout the Covid-19 crisis to continue their essential research.

Much of that experience is directly applicable to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and Blumberg has identified the first compounds in their portfolio for testing. These drugs have been spun out into a new company called Bixi Life Sciences LLC, which will be one of the companies in which the COVID-19 Fund will invest. According to Dr. Block, “Bixi’s Iminovir interferes with viral glycoprotein folding and attachment to cells. It has been shown in vitro to inhibit SARS-1. Given the similarity of the SARS 1 Spike Glycoprotein, and its use of the same receptor as SARS-Cov2, we reason the drug will be active against SARS-Cov2 and COVID-19. The drug will be tested alone and in combination with complementary antivirals.” 

Additionally, Hatch has identified two additional companies at the center, Evrys Bio and Vigilon, which it will add to the portfolio. According to Hatch CEO Vladimir Walko, “These are companies that are ahead of the pack, given that they have already invested years of research in this very specialized space. They do not need to spend time developing new drugs, just testing the ones in their pipeline as soon as possible.” Evrys Bio was founded in 2012 at PABC by renowned Princeton Molecular Biologist Dr. Thomas Shenk. Vigilon is a start-up founded at the Hatch Bioaccelerator by former Penn Professor Dr. Yizeng Yang.

Hatch is currently evaluating other ideas currently present in the PABC Incubator as well as new ones that are chosen. Along with several other breakthrough drugs already developed at the nonprofit incubator, Hatch hopes the PABC will soon become recognized for a major contribution to the current pandemic.

Click here for more information about COVID-19 research and development at the PABC.