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University City Science Center is launching a VC arm to invest in health equity startups


University City Science Center, an organization central to the region’s burgeoning life sciences sector, announced Wednesday the creation of its fourth “strategic pillar” — a venture capital arm that will deploy funds to startups addressing health inequities for underserved populations.

This addition of a capital arm adds to the nonprofit’s existing work, which it describes as “commercialization of promising technologies, cultivating STEM talent and convening people to inspire action.” The effort will be led by Heath Naquin, who joined the Science Center in June as its VP of government and capital engagement.

Naquin is new to the Philly region, but has done consultation work with the Science Center for years. He’s worked in the VC space and as a global and government liaison, and most recently worked on the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Initiative with the National Institutes of Health. He’s also the cofounder of International Innovation Associates, a consultancy firm with practice areas in healthcare innovation, angel and VC fund creation, DEI support programming, global venture creation and strategic economic advisory.

Naquin told that the appointment of Tiffany Wilson as the Science Center’s president and CEO last year helped solidify the org’s move to officially bringing a capital aspect to its operations.

“With a sharpened vision and a new strategic plan in place, we’re eager to set into motion the next chapter of the Science Center’s impact on healthcare innovation,” Wilson said in a statement. “We’re committed to mobilizing capital in Greater Philadelphia and doing our part to close the gap in health inequities for underserved populations.”

The capital pillar, when it’s up and running, will be seeking to fund “diverse founders” in STEM who are addressing health inequities through their startups. The capital won’t be exclusive to startups in Science Center programs — which include its Launch Lane accelerator — and won’t necessarily all be local, Naquin said.

“External founders are fine. It’s more about supporting that population,” he said. “Really it’s about serving the diverse founders in the STEM community much more broadly.”

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Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing