Protein discovered by medical researcher gets investment nod

THE UPSIDE FUND, a venture capital fund managed by the UH Foundation in conjunction with the Hawai‘i Strategic Development Corporation and the Research Corporation of the University of Hawai‘i (RCUH), has invested $100,000 to help launch Protekai, Inc. Formed by Omar S. Sultan, Protekai, Inc. commercializes intellectual property developed in Dr. Angel Yanagihara’s research laboratory. The economic benefits of this spinoff could be significant for the University and Hawai‘i.

Yanagihara is a researcher in the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology in UH Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine. During the course of 12 years of research, Yanagihara has discovered and patented Physalia Fluorescent Proteins. These proteins have the potential to create powerful new biomedical research and diagnostic tools. The market for these proteins is approximately $2.5 billion dollars annually and growing at a double-digit rate.

The Upside Fund’s $100,000 will be used to fund the additional work to isolate and sequence these proteins. “I applaud the vision and initiative of this powerful collaborative effort between Hawai‘i’s entrepreneurial leaders in technology-development, and the UH administration. Intellectual property developed by UH faculty is an inadequately tapped resource with enormous potential for economic benefit,” said Yanagihara. If successful, Protekai, Inc. could serve as a model for future UH spinouts.

The Upside Fund provides seed venture capital to support UH President M.R.C. Greenwood’s strategy to create a 21st century capability for technology innovation to support a multi-billion dollar industry for Hawai‘i.

Upside Fund management:
• Barry Weinman, Managing Director and Co-Founding Partner, Allegis Capital
• Jim Lally, retired partner of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital fund, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
• Scott Wo, Chief Investment Officer at C.S. Wo.

“This technology opportunity plays to Hawai‘i’s unique strengths. After all, jellyfish aren’t found in Nebraska! We invite organizations and individuals who believe in the importance to Hawai‘i of UH technology innovation and commercialization, to make a donation to expand the Upside Funds investment capacity, or to consider investing alongside us in companies like Protekai,” said Barry Weinman, chair, UH Foundation Board of Trustees.

To invest in University of Hawai‘i’s technology innovation, please contact Margot Schrire at (808) 956-6774 or Margot.Schrire@uhfoundation.org.

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