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By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – More than 75 people – including many of Rhode Island’s leading life science entrepreneurs and investors – gathered at the Founder’s League in the Knowledge District on April 24 to help launch MedMates, a new cluster organization with the goal of strengthening Rhode Island’s health-tech ecosystem.
The new organization, funded in part with a $50,000 grant from The Rhode Island Foundation as an outgrowth of the “Make It Happen RI” initiative, put on display many of the diverse components of its new universe.
The “point people” of the MedMates initiative are Stephen Lane, chairman and chief venture office of Ximedica, Katherine Brown, managing director of the Technology Ventures Office at Brown University, Barrett Bready, president and CEO of Nabsys, and David Goldsmith, and co-founder and director of Aspiera Medical in Woonsocket.
Denice Spero, co-director of iCubed, and co-founder along with University of Rhode Island’s Edward Bozzi of the recently launched Rhode Island BioScience Leaders, a group of 25 company leaders seeking to create a similar presence in life sciences in Rhode Island, described the relationship between her group and MedMates as a kind of new math, a series of circles that overlapped, intersected and collaborated.
Spero, as one of the brief speakers at the event, announced a new legislative proposal to create a series of matching state grants for SBIR awards and fellowships for Rhode Island students.
Another intersecting circle of influence, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, used its brief talk to champion its “TheGarageRI” event, on May 14 at the R.I. Convention Center, where “every company can be part of a growth story.” The gathering will feature four major circles of discussion – Health and Wellness, Consumer Products, Rhode Island and Life Sciences.
Kollol Pal, the CEO of Mnemosyne Pharmaceuticals, a drug research and development firm, spoke about the potential of Providence to become a center of life sciences activity, and, like many of the speakers, paid tribute to Richard G. Horan, senior managing director of The Slater Fund, which Pal said had served as the source of initial investment for his company and many others in the room.
Among the other brief speakers were Nick Adams, co-founder and COO of Care Thread, also a recipient of Slater Fund investment.
R.I. General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo also spoke briefly at the opening of the event.
The event took place at the Founders League at 95 Chestnut St., a once empty building that is now the home to more than 50 startups and will soon be opening up a new wing for more entrepreneurs, according to Stephanie Caress of Betaspring. The Founders League is a partnership of Betaspring, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Brown University and the University of Rhode Island.