Stemina Biomarker Discovery

Madison-based Stemina Biomarker Discovery Inc. evaluates the toxicity of chemicals on embryo development and develops biomarker tests for autism.

It is currently raising $10 million to enroll patient sites for identifying the biomarkers, said Elizabeth Donley, chief executive officer.

Stemina is almost at the venture capital stage, but needs investors like BrightStar to help it run the last lap, said Tom Shannon, BrightStar’s president and chief executive officer. The organization is contributing $100,000 to the biotech firm.

“They’re on the verge of breaking out,” said Todd Sobotka, BrightStar’s portfolio manager and investment committee chair. “They just landed an (Environmental Protection Agency) contract that has the potential for substantial money. That was a quick injection, a shot in arm, to help boost them to get them over this hump in the next year.”

Stemina Biomarker Discovery develops biomarker tests for autism.

Donley expects that Stemina, which currently has 10 employees, will hire another seven to nine employees this year, partially because of the $10.6 million EPA contract to study birth defects. By 2018, employment is expected to be at 75.

BrightStar’s investment has helped with fundraising on a $1.5 million convertible note, Donley said. While Stemina has some revenue being generated, it doesn’t have enough to achieve its goals.

“We don’t have enough revenue to grow,” she said. “We have enough revenue to sustain at the current level. And you can’t really get anywhere at that pace. At some point your company is ready to accelerate, and if you don’t seize the day and go out and raise the money to accelerate your business, you often miss the market opportunity.”

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