UVA LVG Seed Fund Portfolio

Astraea exists to demystify the complexity of our planet for those who seek to understand it. 

With decades of experience using geospatial data in the intelligence, financial, and scientific sectors, Astraea’s co-founders realized that applying machine learning to Earth-observing data was inefficient and costly. As a team of data scientists and software engineers, we set out to solve our own problem.

We built a one-stop Artificial Intelligence platform to combine cutting-edge technologies and analytics-ready satellite imagery, bringing everyone closer to big geospatial data and giving them tools to analyze it at a fraction of the cost.

We believe that democratizing access will enable human creativity to solve the World’s problems.

Data can lead to insight. Insight to action. Action to solutions.

Merand Pharmaceuticals

Merand Pharmaceuticals is developing a novel microRNA therapeutic (MicroRNA93 or miR-93), which was discovered at UVA, to treat patients suffering from Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). UVA LVG facilitated the patent protection of the miR-93 technology and exclusively licensed it to Merand.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common, progressive circulatory issue that affects over 200 million people globally. Patients who suffer from PAD experience reduced blood flow to the legs, caused by blockages in the arteries which causes pain and non-healing ulcers that often lead to amputation. The miR-93 technology has shown to promote angiogenesis, or the development of new blood vessels, which leads to restored blood flow.

The miR-93 therapeutic was discovered by a research team in the lab of UVA Cardiologist and Chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine Dr. Brian Annex. During his tenure at UVA, he was awarded more than $3M from the NIH to study its role in growing and stabilizing functional blood vessels to increase perfusion recovery and reduce inflammation in PAD. Dr. Annex co-founded Merand Pharmaceuticals with industry veteran Tony Giordano, Ph.D., to pursue the commercial potential for the therapeutic.

Direct Spinal Therapeutics, Inc.

Direct Spinal Therapeutics, Inc. is a medical device company developing a Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) product-platform to enhance treatment for chronic back pain and other spinal cord injuries. The company’s IP2 technology is based on collaborative research and joint intellectual property developed by George Gillies, Ph.D., UVA research professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering and Chairman of the University of Iowa’s Department of Neurosurgery Dr. Matthew Howard III.

The LVG Seed Fund invested in DSTI before the close of the 2019 fiscal year to advance the company’s IP2 product development and support regulatory and intellectual property work in advance of a pre-submission meeting with the FDA. 

BrightSpec is a commercial-stage life science instrumentation company founded in Charlottesville, VA in the Fall of 2012. BrightSpec IP in molecular rotational resonance (MRR) is based on technology licensed from the University of Virginia. BrightSpec offers MRR as a new, powerful technique for analytical chemistry ranging across R&D, quality assurance, and manufacturing process control applications and across many industries including pharma, chemical, and consumer products.  BrightSpec is commercializing a portfolio of instruments and provides supporting lab services. 

Ceres Nanosciences Inc. is engaged in the research, development, and commercialization of innovative sample preparation products and diagnostic tests, based on its proprietary Nanotrap® particle platform. The Nanotrap® particles capture, enrich and preserve the most valuable biomarkers, enabling early and accurate detection of diseases such as cancer, cardiac, neurological, and infectious diseases, resulting in improved patient outcomes and reduced health care costs. 

Founded in 2009 by UVA alumnus Ross Dunlap, the company is headquartered in Manassas, VA and is the only UVA alumni company in the LVG Seed Fund portfolio. In June 2019, a collaborative team from Ceres, UVA, and George Mason University received a $600,000 Virginia Catalyst award for the development of a Nanotrap® liquid biopsy collection device to be matched by $1.2 million in product development funding by Ceres. 

Mission Secure (MSi) is a leading industrial control system (ICS) cybersecurity company providing the patented MSi Platform and cyber advisory services to help protect clients in energy, defense, transportation, maritime and critical infrastructure from cyber attacks. The MSi Platform prototype created at UVA and originally funded by the Department of Defense mitigates cyber risks from within operational software. The company licensed the foundational technology from LVG and the LVG Seed Fund first invested in 2017 as part of MSi’s fourth financing round used to further develop and protect the proprietary technology.

In fiscal year 2019, the LVG Seed Fund participated in MSi’s Series A financing round with a follow-on investment to support the company’s growth and expansion throughout the energy, defense, and transportation sectors. 

The quality of human tear film is critical for corneal epithelial and neuronal cell survival.  Several tear proteins are deficient in different forms of Dry Eye, the most common eye disease. One, called Lacritin, is deficient in all forms of Dry Eye and when reintroduced, health is restored.  TearSolutions has developed ‘Lacripep’, which is derived from Lacritin protein as a first-in-class topical therapy that preserves all of Lacritin’s bioactivity.  Preclinical data showed that, when Lacripep was added topically to eyes of dry eye animals, it restored basal tearing without irritation and healed the corneal surface of the eye.  

TearSolutions has now completed a first-in-human Phase I/II trial in primary Sjögren’s Syndrome, who typically have a severe and often debilitating form of Dry Eye and are known to be deficient in Lacritin (Clinicaltrials.gov: NCT03226444).  The results showed a rapid improvement, as quickly as two weeks, in corneal health and a reduction in symptoms. Through interactions with the FDA two more trials are being planned, beginning with a Phase II/III trial late in 2021.

UVA Founders: Gordon W. Laurie, Ph.D.

Contact: Anil Asrani (aasrani@tearsolutions.com)


DexCom, Inc., a publicly traded company and leader in continuous glucose monitoring for people with diabetes acquired TypeZero Technologies in September 2018. This acquisition marks the first exit for the UVA LVG Seed Fund. 

The world leader in clinically tested automated insulin delivery solutions,TypeZero Technologies, Inc. is a digital health and personalized medicine company dedicated to revolutionizing the treatment and management of diabetes. TypeZero is combining next-generation data science techniques, proven metabolic models, and modern engineering practices to develop customized analytics tools and blood glucose control solutions to help people with diabetes improve their health and lives. TypeZero’s current solutions include a smartphone-based automated insulin delivery system, therapy optimization tools for health care providers, and advisory applications for smart insulin pens. 

Dr. Scott Lim, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine and medical director of the UVA Advanced Cardiac Valve Center co-founded 510 Kardiac Devices, Inc. with his colleague, Jaime Sarabia, a seasoned medical device entrepreneur and mechanical engineer to commercialize novel cardiovascular devices through which cardiologists can perform procedures to targeted locations within the structures of the heart.

In his role at UVA, Dr. Lim spent years developing an instrument that will allow for greater control of the needle during operations to position it in precise locations. This device, called the Lim Transseptal System, has the potential to improve the safety and accuracy of heart procedures that are typically dangerous and difficult.