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Norfolk biotech startup to get $150,000 loan from city’s new “Innovation Fund”

A startup that’s developing implantable devices to help regenerate injured tissue is the first recipient under Norfolk’s “Innovation Fund.”

Embody LLC, founded in 2014, will get a $150,000 loan from the new venture-capital fund, which aims to help growing technology, science and health care companies.

“We’re looking for ways to make Norfolk a more entrepreneurially focused city in those specific areas,” said Chuck Rigney, executive director of the Economic Development Authority.

The EDA board of directors approved the $150,000 loan Wednesday after a closed-door meeting in which it reviewed the finances of the company’s founder, Jeff Conroy.

Conroy said he hasn’t seen another city in Virginia start as large a fund aimed at small businesses.

“Everybody wants Oracle to open an office, right?” Conroy said. “But to be working with companies who are trying to get from five to 10 or 10 to 20 employees – that’s where the jobs are in this country.”

Embody has 13 employees and plans to double that number in the next few years.

Conroy said it hopes to bring products to market around the same time.

Conroy declined to discuss the company’s technology in detail. Rigney told the EDA board that Embody is using nanostructures to make tissue regenerate more strongly.

Conroy said the devices will help people heal from combat wounds and other trauma, as well as sports injuries.

The city says Embody already has a $12.2 million federal grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which focuses on technology with national security applications.

Glenn Hudson, a city development staffer who works on the Innovation Fund, said the federal grant doesn’t cover animal testing. So Embody will use the EDA loan to cover that and other research.

Rigney said Embody will get the loan in about 60 days. It has up to 10 years to pay it back, with an interest rate of 5.5 percent.

Embody’s offices are in the Innovation Research Park at Old Dominion University, which is also home to other technology and health companies.

The Innovation Fund was started with $500,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money, an amount that could grow. The Economic Development Authority calls it the first municipal venture-capital fund in Virginia.

Another company had asked for a $150,000 loan but pulled its application for now, Rigney said. That firm, Track Patch I Corp., makes a patch to help caregivers track people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

 

Source: The Virginian Pilot by Eric Hartley

 
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