Utah seed fund sprouts

Raising a first time fund is never easy, but doing it during the middle of one of the U.S.’s worst economic downturns is downright laudable.

UpStart Ventures Management has managed to put together at least part of its first fund, raising $7 million of a proposed $28 million first fund, according to a regulatory document filed earlier this month.

The Salt Lake City-based firm raised money from the University of Utah Research Foundation and the Utah Fund of Funds and expects to finish up fund-raising in several months.

The fund, called UpStart Life Sciences Capital, will focus on seed stage companies working on biopharmaceuticals, diagnostics, drug delivery and medical devices—and works closely with the University of Utah to find attractive startups.

The firm has made several investments already, though no deal terms have been disclosed.

It backed Salt Lake City-based Neuroadjuvants, a startup working on brain drugs that comes from a collaborative effort between the University of Utah and the Brain Institute. It also backed Sera Prognostics, a startup working on prognostics for problems with pregnancy that comes from research work done through the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. And it backed ContraDyn, a startup working on anti-tumor technology licensed from the University of Utah.

UpStart’s managing directors include Steve Borst, Dennis Farrar and Ted Stanley.

VCs have invested $135 million in 19 startups in Utah so far this year, according to data from Thomson Reuters (publisher of PE Week). Those numbers are in line with the $186.5 million they invested in 35 companies during 2008. —Alexander Haislip