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Grand Angels finances three more regional companies

Two have a medical connection and the third focuses on outdoor recreation.

August 22, 2014
| By Pete Daly |
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Grand Angels, a Grand Rapids-based investment group, has made three more funding commitments to three small Michigan companies: Tetra Discover Partners, Ablative Solutions and Altus Brands.

Tetra Discovery Partners, a Grand Rapids “drug discovery company,” uses structure-guided drug design to discover mechanistically novel, allosteric inhibitors of phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4). Tetra research focuses on developing new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, depression and traumatic brain injury. The funds from Grand Angels will accelerate work at Tetra that is also funded by the National Institutes of Health.

In April, Tetra announced it has begun a drug development collaboration with the Broad Institute’s Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research in Cambridge, Mass. The focus of the collaboration will be to test the potential of Tetra’s drug candidates for improving cognition in the Stanley Center’s proprietary genetic models relating to schizophrenia.

Tetra’s founder and chief executive officer is Mark Gurney.

Founded in Kalamazoo, Ablative Solutions’ technology involves utilizing endovascular catheters to provide an efficacious, durable, cost-effective and safe alternative to surgical renal denervation for the treatment of hypertension and other diseases caused by an overactive sympathetic nervous system. CEO/CMO Tim Fischell, M.D., and Vartan Ghazarossian, Ablative’s president and COO, have developed a safe outpatient renal denervation process for the treatment of high blood pressure that eliminates the painful “burning” treatment currently in use. Ablative Solutions’ treatment has been found to quickly reduce pain and recovery time while decreasing the need for long-term medication. With this investment from Grand Angels, Ablative will have raised its B round goal of $12.5 million.

Hypertension affects an estimated 1 billion people worldwide and an estimated 65 million adults in the United States. It is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, metabolic syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea and kidney disease. One out of every six adult deaths is attributable to hypertension, and the economic burden in the U.S. exceeds $76.6 billion, according to the Ablative website.

Ablative Solutions was founded in 2011 by Tim Fischell and David Fischell.

Altus Brands is based in Grawn, located a few miles southwest of Traverse City, and specializes in hunting, shooting and other outdoor recreation products. The company is looking to raise additional capital to purchase another brand focused on the outdoor industry.

Altus was launched in 2008 by partners Gary Lemanski, Charles Ricci and Brian Breneman. The company strategy is to partner with or acquire small companies that have a successful single product or very limited product line. According to the Altus Brands website, it typically looks for outdoor sports products created by an entrepreneur who is approaching retirement age and does not have a succession plan. Altus brings its experience and resources to the table to fully capture the brand’s value, with additional capital, integration and leveraging of established distribution channels, production management and administration.

Some of the brands in the Altus portfolio include: Pro Ears hearing protection/sound amplification; Benchmaster shooting rests; Crossfire slings; Cass Creek electronic game calls; Extreme Dimension electronic game calls; Harmon hunting scents; and Kwikee Kwiver hunting bow quivers.

“Grand Angels is excited to be leading a follow-on round in Tetra and participating in follow-on rounds in Ablative Solutions and Altus Brands. In 2014, we have invested more than $2 million in eight companies, which is great progress toward our goal of $2.3 million in 10 companies,” said Jody Vanderwel, Grand Angels president. “Grand Angels continues to welcome new members and we are always pleased to talk with people who might be interested in investing in the early-stage space.”

With this latest funding, Grand Angels has invested more than $16 million in 30 companies since its inception more than 10 years ago.

Grand Angels’ mission is to use financial, intellectual and networking capital to foster the success of emerging companies and to enhance the economic development of West Michigan. Grand Angels’ investments encourage business growth in the region, job creation and the attraction and retention of local talent.

The organization is also active in efforts to create a climate for the success of entrepreneurs in West Michigan. Many of its members have served on panels, judged pitch competitions and mentored entrepreneurs through organizations including the Accelerate Michigan competition, Hope Entrepreneurship Initiative, and Grand Valley State University Seidman College of Business Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

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