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07/10/2012 07:00:00

A Snapshot of Start-ups

U.S. Venture Partners, founded in 1981 by William K. Bowes, Jr., has helped launch more than 420 companies spanning a wide range of industries. It has provided funds for several Caltech start-ups, including the following four.

Axiom Microdevices

Cofounder: Ali Hajimiri, Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering

Axiom Microdevices, founded in 2002 and acquired by Skyworks in 2009, was the first company to use inexpensive complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) processes to develop power amplifier technologies for the cell-phone industry. The company's technology has been instrumental in enabling single-chip cell phones, dramatically reducing the costs of cell-phone circuitry. More than 150 million units of Axiom Microdevices' CMOS power amplifiers have been sold. 

Cleave Biosciences

Cofounder: Raymond Deshaies, professor of biology; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Founded in 2011, Cleave Biosciences is focused on developing novel cancer drugs for difficult-to-treat tumors. Using small-molecule therapeutics, Cleave focuses on modulating the activity of enzymes involved in protein degradation, thereby affecting the growth and survival of cancer cells.

Contour Energy Systems

Cofounder: Robert Grubbs, Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry

Founded in 2007 as the result of a collaboration between Caltech and the French National Center for Scientific Research, Contour Energy Systems is developing new rechargeable and primary battery technologies. What makes these batteries unique is that fluorine is combined with carbon nanomaterials at the atomic level during the manufacturing process, creating a carbon-fluoride compound with unique properties. The company says that this produces batteries that can operate in extreme conditions and that have an extended shelf life. Applications include transportation, medical equipment, and portable electronics.


Cofounder: Raymond Deshaies, professor of biology; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Proteolix was formed in 2003 to develop drugs that control sophisticated regulatory processes in the human body as a way to fight cancer. Acquired by Onyx Pharmaceuticals in 2009, its investigators discovered novel therapies that target proteasomes-very large cellular complexes involved in breaking down proteins-for the treatment of solid tumors and hematologic malignancies. Carfilzomib, the first drug that Proteolix developed, is undergoing clinical trials for treatment of multiple myeloma, the second most common hematologic cancer. An NDA (New Drug Application) has been filed with the FDA for marketing approval, and a decision is expected in July.


Written by Michael Rogers