Angels invest in three UNM startups

By Kevin Robinson-Avila / Journal Staff Writer/Albuquerque Journal

Biologic pesticide spores at EcoPesticides' lab at an incubator in Santa Fe. (Courtesy EcoPesticides)

New rounds of funding from the New Mexico Angels are moving a few University of New Mexico technologies closer to market.

The Angels have invested a total of $410,000 in three UNM startups since January. That includes a $110,000 follow-on investment in EcoPesticides International Inc., which is marketing technology to improve the effectiveness of biopesticides; a $200,000 follow-on for Enthentica, which has encryption technology that embeds security functions directly into semiconductor chips;  a first-time, $100,000 investment in Avisa Pharma Inc., which is working to deploy a new breath test for rapid detection of pneumonia and other lung diseases in emergency rooms.

The Angels also made a first-time, $230,000 investment in a Santa Fe startup whose identity remains confidential, said Angels President John Chavez.

The new funding puts the group, which pools the resources of about 70 individual investors, on track for another record year. The Angels provided $1.95 million to 11 startups in 2016, its highest annual level since launching in 1999.

“We’re seeing some exciting companies emerging in New Mexico, and it’s encouraging more members to deploy more capital,” Chavez said.

New funding could push all three startups closer to their goals.

EcoPesticides previously received $500,000 from the Angels and the UNM Foundation’s co-investment fund, bringing total investment to $610,000. It’s now conducting field trials with two global agribusinesses to test its technology, which encapsulates fungus, bacteria and other natural organisms that kill agricultural pests.The encapsulation technology helps them better resist the degrading effects of ultraviolet light.

In recent laboratory tests, encapsulation extended the full potency of Bt, the world’s most widely-used biopesticide, to 14 days. That’s up from a typical 50 percent loss of potency in just four hours under peak sunlight, said chief technology officer Steve Miller.

“The laboratory tests opened the door for the field tests now underway,” Miller said. “We’ve signed nondisclosure agreements, but we’re working with brand name companies that everyone would recognize.”

With the follow-on funding, Enthentica has now received $310,000 from the Angels. The company has market-ready technology that allows manufacturers to use unique identifiers in chips to prevent hackers from tampering with hardware.

More funding will allow Enthentica to attend conferences and trade shows to build market interest, said CEO Charles Mendez.

“We want to network and get a better handle on the market and then hire a business development person this summer,” Mendez said.

Avisa Pharma has to date raised nearly $9 million in venture investment. It plans to seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for its breath-test technology, but it wants to first participate in a UNM Hospital study for rapid detection of pneumonia-causing bacteria. The Angel funding will help finance that.

 

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