Invenra, a Madison company helping pharmaceutical companies find potential drugs to fight cancer, is boosting staff and beefing up production now that it’s gotten another $2 million from investors.
That brings the total to $8.2 million raised by Invenra since it was formed in 2012 — $4 million of that just this year.
“Our pipeline looks busier than we initially expected, and we’re ramping up operations ahead of schedule,” said Roland Green, Invenra co-founder and president.
Invenra produces antibodies, which are proteins created by the immune system to fight infection.
Antibody-based drugs are popular now. Green said they are the fastest-growing type of pharmaceuticals, with a high success rate and few side effects. For example, he said, sales of AbbVie’s Humira, to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, are $1 billion a month.
He said antibodies can be used to carry the toxin that fights an illness or in some cases, can carry out the attack themselves.
Invenra says its technology is a faster and less expensive way to produce antibodies and to test their cancer-fighting powers than standard methods. That’s because the company synthesizes its antibodies in a test tube rather than an animal, Green said.
He said Invenra is working with several drug companies. So far, Oxford BioTherapeutics is the only one named publicly.
The drug companies list their disease targets, and “we’ll deliver antibodies that hit those targets,” Green said.
If one of Invenra’s antibodies hits the disease target effectively, the test cell gives off a green glow, showing the antibody could be a potential drug candidate.
With labs at 505 S. Rosa Road, in the MGE Innovation Center at University Research Park, Invenra has 14 full-time employees and one part-timer.
Investors in the most recent financing, as well as in the past, include angel (or individual) groups Wisconsin Investment Partners, based in Madison, and New Capital Fund, in Little Chute.
Forbes features Madison’s EatStreet
Titled “How These 20-Year-Olds Raised $13M And Built A Massive Food Tech Company,” the interview touches on some of the challenges that Martell and his partners and UW-Madison classmates, Matt Howard and Alex Wyler, faced as they formed their online restaurant ordering business in 2010.
They had to convince restaurants to take a chance on them. Some told Howard bluntly that they “just didn’t feel comfortable doing business with a kid,” Martell said. EatStreet started with five Madison restaurants on board.
They had to get a credit card processor to trust them, and that took two months and six tries before one said yes.
“If it weren’t for those five restaurants and the credit card processor taking a risk on us, EatStreet would not exist,” Martell told Forbes.
Today, EatStreet is in all 50 states, with online ordering for 15,000 restaurants in 150 cities. The company has raised nearly $13 million from investors and has 115 employees, all in Madison.
Martell’s advice to new entrepreneurs: “Persistence and results,” he told Forbes. “Our investment pitch historically has had less than a 50 percent success rate. Accept the failure as inevitable and push forward.”
In an email exchange with the State Journal, Martell said he’s happy to see the retweets by investors and other startups and Facebook “likes” of the interview.
“The support within the community is really exciting, and equally exciting is the energy the article created within the company. Our employees are fired up,” Martell said.
There have been plenty of roadblocks and challenges he said, adding, “We’re proud of how we overcame those obstacles, and optimistic that we’re up for whatever challenges the future may hold.”