Science tests market for $100M

Science Futures, a firm founded by former Techno Venture Management (TVM) advisor Nola Masterson, is aiming to raise $100 million for a venture fund focused on neurotech, a sector of biotechnology dealing with the brain, she told VCJ.

Masterson said that she is looking for “outside-the-box anchor tenants” to support the fund as limited partners. She’s currently targeting large corporations and funds for emerging managers.

The fund will be her firm’s third. She raised a first fund in 1998, with mostly her own money. She aborted the second fund, again comprised mostly of her own money, to open TVM’s San Francisco office during the dot-com boom. But TVM shut down its West Coast offices in 2003 and parted ways with Masterson.

Science Futures’ website claims wins from Sequenom (Nasdaq: SQNM), a company Masterson co-founded and that TVM backed; Idec Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: IDPH); and Nanostream, a startup Science Futures seeded in 2000 with a $50,000 investment.

“TVM realized from LPs that they had a niche in Germany and they had partners in Munich that like their lifestyle and didn’t want to deal with the nine-hour time difference,” she says.

Science Futures will be more directed in its investments than a typical venture firm, Masterson says. She expects to know where each startup’s exit is before she invests, for example. She’s also hoping to put money to work in private offerings from public companies.

The San Francisco-based firm will partner with NeuroInsights, a newsletter company focused on the business of the brain. Masterson says she expects the relationship to be the primary pipeline for her firm’s deals.

Masterson will invest the fund along with Casey Lynch, a co-founder of Aspira Biosystems, a startup backed by Alloy Ventures and which sold to Nanomune in 2004.

“The 1990s was the decade of the brain,” Masterson says. “Now that innovation is coming to the market.” —Alexander Haislip