The University of Chicago is renowned for its commitment to field-defining basic research—work that can lay the foundation for development of new products, services and solutions. The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is the central resource for transferring these groundbreaking ideas and discoveries outside the University to the world at large. In just the last two months, this work has been exemplified by a string of exits—a business term meaning beginning the next phase of growth—by three UChicago startups: Pyxis Oncology, Explorer Surgical and NowPow.
An exit marks a new phase for a company as it grows and early investors see a return on their money, typically through an initial public offering of stock, a merger or an acquisition.
“These are compelling ideas that are changing the world: Treating cancer. Delivering better health care more efficiently. Providing resources to those in need,” said Juan de Pablo, vice president for national laboratories, science strategy, innovation and global initiatives at the University of Chicago.
“When faculty and students come up with ideas that will help millions of people, the University must make sure that these ideas reach society,” he said. “The fact that these companies are worth millions of dollars serves to emphasize that they have developed solutions that people care about. It also serves to remind us that markets place a value on the efforts of these researchers.”
Tumor treatments and health care improvements
In early October, Pyxis Oncology announced the pricing of its upsized initial public offering—the process in which a company's owners sell a portion of the firm to public investors. Proceeds from the IPO are expected to be $168 million. The announcement followed the close of its $152 million Series B funding round and a worldwide licensing agreement with Pfizer—also important milestones in both company growth and in the journey of discoveries from the laboratory to improved health for patients.
The company was founded around novel tumor biology built on the work of Thomas Gajewski, the AbbVie Foundation Professor of Cancer Immunotherapy in Pathology, professor in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research and a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago.
Gajewski, who oversees Pyxis’ scientific advisory board, noted that optimizing this interaction between academia and industry has led to an accelerating pace of “discovery to patient” over the last five to ten years. “That’s good for all of us as humans and citizens of the world,” he said, “and it is fun to be in the middle of it.”
The preclinical oncology company focuses on developing an arsenal of next-generation therapeutics to target difficult-to-treat cancers and improve quality of life for patients—and the IPO brings it one step closer toward testing its lead candidates in the clinic, said Gajewski.