Originally posted on GRBJ by Rachel Watson
The New Community Transformation Fund is investing $500,000 in a groundbreaking medical startup.
The New Community Transformation Fund (NCTF), a Grand Rapids-based venture fund aimed at boosting businesses owned by people of color in West Michigan, made its first investment, a $500,000 outlay in BAMF Health, a Grand Rapids-based second-stage life science company founded by former Van Andel Institute scientist Dr. Anthony Chang.
The deal was finalized in late December 2021, shortly after NCTF raised $10 million, which fund leaders said was the capital raise goal for the fund to make its first investments in businesses owned by people of color.
Founded in 2018 by Chang, BAMF Health, which stands for Bold Advanced Medical Future, is working to transform systems used for diagnosis and treatment for patients with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, depression, endometriosis, cardiac disease and more.
The company currently is building its state-of-the-art radiopharmacy, imaging clinic, theranostics clinic and corporate headquarters at the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building at the northeast corner of Monroe Avenue and Michigan Street in downtown Grand Rapids.
The flagship facility is the first of its kind in the world. The cyclotron equipped radiopharmacy will produce novel radiopharmaceuticals on site. Patients will receive treatment in the optimized theranostics clinic during their same-day visit.
“We are excited to have NCTF join our mission to make the world’s leading cancer care affordable and accessible to everyone that needs it,” Chang said. “Our partnership with NCTF proves West Michigan is and will continue to be one of the best places to start a company. We are excited to have the entire community championing our mission.”
BAMF was one of several life scienced-focused second-stage companies fund leaders were considering. Advanced manufacturing, food and agribusiness, e-commerce, and information technology and finance technology are the other primary industries the fund will focus on, with investments expected to range between $250,000 and $500,000.
The fund will focus on three areas: West Michigan-based, people of color-owned companies; transitioning, nonlocal companies that are willing to place an entrepreneur of color in executive positions; and second-stage entrepreneurs of color who will relocate to West Michigan to grow their company.
For its first investment, NCTF leaders felt it was important to focus on a locally owned company, they said.
“Many of us on the board and investment committee have had the benefit of touring BAMF and getting to know Anthony and the team, so we felt very comfortable with this inaugural investment,” said Birgit Klohs, board chair, NCTF, and one of the group’s founders. “We believe BAMF Health is well on its way to breaking so many barriers with its theranostics and radiopharmacy technology, so we believe the time was right to support it financially.”
NCTF maintains an investment committee comprised of local and national members and is governed by a board of directors which, along with Klohs as chair, includes fellow NCTF co-founder Skot Welch, president and CEO of Global Bridgebuilders; Kwame Anku, CEO and general partner of Black Star Fund; Garrick Rochow, president and CEO of CMS and Consumers Energy; and Christal Jackson, an internationally known venture philanthropist.
NCTF founding managing director Ollie Howie, who was brought on in November 2021 to lead deal opportunities, also has become acquainted with Dr. Chang and the BAMF vision. During his first few months, he observed the region’s business success stories and felt BAMF will be part of that legacy.
“This region is rich in entrepreneurism, and in recent years has made a name for itself internationally in the life sciences sector, so I believe BAMF will add to that legacy,” Howie said. “With BAMF and subsequent investments, NCTF hopes to add a new chapter to our history book by helping entrepreneurs of color succeed.”
As managing director, Howie is responsible for guiding the work of the organization to achieve its mission by sourcing deal flow and building relationships with investors and the community. He also leads business growth through creating, negotiating and closing investment opportunities, all duties he has managed in some capacity in previous roles.
NCTF launched Jan. 23, 2020, inspired by an idea Klohs had to create opportunity for entrepreneurs of color. NCTF leaders said they are excited to begin investing in companies and already have compiled a solid pipeline of potential next investments. Additionally, other communities across the nation have their eye on what NCTF is doing and have inquired about replicating the fund in other communities.
“We have been very impressed with the portfolios we’ve reviewed and very much look forward to walking alongside more entrepreneurs of color to support their business growth,” Klohs said. “We’ve had colleagues from across the nation approach us seeking more information about the NCTF model, so we know we’re on the right track with this endeavor.”