Apr 3, 2024 - Business

Autism-focused venture capital fund raises $60 million

Illustration of an autism ribbon wrapped around a stack of dollar bills.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Autism Impact Fund, a venture capital group focused on autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, has closed its debut fund with $60 million.

Why it matters: 1 in 36 kids in the U.S. has autism, up from the prior rate of 1 in 44, according to the CDC. But treatments lag far behind the rampancy.

  • "Imagine me telling you that you have cancer, but we don't really have any idea of exactly what's happening biologically," explains Chris Male, AIF's co-founder and managing partner. "That's what it's like with autism, it's that far behind. The most common traditional form of therapy works with maybe 25% of recipients, but that leaves the other 75%."

Backstory: AIF was conceived of five years ago by a group of investors with kids on the autism spectrum, who wanted to support relevant life sciences and health-tech startups.

  • Those parents recruited a team, including Male, and then in 2021 helped seed the fund.
  • Family office LPs came next, and AIF began doing deals to prove out its thesis to institutional investors like Norway's Ferd.

By the numbers: AIF already has deployed around 60% its capital into a dozen companies, one of which already is in sale talks, and expects to begin raising at least $100 million for a successor vehicle in six to nine months.

Inside the portfolio: Male is particularly excited about Cortica, a San Diego-based neurological therapy services provider that's raised follow-on funding from such firms as CVS, Deerfield, and Optum.

  • Plus, a fast-growing U.K. telehealth startup called Healios, which operates in the U.S. as Meliora Health.

The bottom line: "We're structured so as not to overlap or compete for dollars with the nonprofits that are doing the foundational and research work," Male adds. "We're that next layer, so there can be an entire ecosystem focused on helping people with autism."

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