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Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Venture capitalists have largely ignored Type 1 diabetes, backing just 7 related U.S. startups since the beginning of 2015. Instead they've focused their diabetes dollars on Type II, a metabolic disease whose cause is largely understood, whereas Type 1 is a more complicated autoimmune condition with fewer patients.

Why it matters: Around 1.25 million Americans suffer from Type 1 diabetes and, at current rates, that figure could hit 5 million by 2050. It currently costs the U.S. healthcare system around $14 billion annually, and costs the typical Type 1 patient 13 years off their life.

Dedicated effort: Enter JDRF, the country's largest non-profit focused on Type 1 diabetes. Two years ago it reached out to Bain Capital's Sean Doherty, to see if he'd help put together a business plan to help relevant startups get funded. Doherty had been running JDRF's Boston chapter since 2002, when his young son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and sat down with a Bain Capital colleague (who also had T1D) to develop what is now a $50 million venture philanthropy fund that plans to back dozens of companies.

Details:

  • Dollars: The $50 million includes $32 million from JDRF, with the remainder largely coming from high-net-worth families. All of the dollars are charitable donations, and will be called down over a four-year period. Any investment profits get plowed back into the fund, which is hoping to ultimately raise $80 million in principal capital.
  • Leadership: The fund is an affiliate of JDRF, but its investment committee is independent. It is led by managing director Jonathan Behr, who previously was with Partners Healthcare, while Doherty serves as chairman. The fulltime investment staff is compensated, but does not receive carried interest.
  • Deals: So far the fund has backed six companies, via equity investments. The hope is that, by articulating an investable business case for such companies, the fund will help encourage other VC firms to enter the space.

Doherty believes that now is the time for this sort of fund, because the research community already has stepped up its game:

When my son was diagnosed there were only two active clinical trials. Today there are over 70. We were having a debate over the legality of stem cells. Now Doug Melton has a company that has shown we can produce an infinite supply of insulin-producing cells out of stem cells, which our fund has backed. You also have advancements in areas like immunooncology, and we can apply some of that same learning. What's really needed now is more private investment.

Go deeper

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

Donald and Melania Trump exit Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 20. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.

2 hours ago - Podcasts

Google's chief health officer Karen DeSalvo on vaccinating America

Google on Monday became the latest Big Tech company to get involved with COVID-19 vaccinations. Not just by doing things like incorporating vaccination sites into its maps, but by helping to turn some of its offices and parking lots into vaccination sites.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper into what Google is doing, and why now, with Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google's chief health officer who previously worked at HHS and as health commissioner for New Orleans.

Biden signs order overturning Trump's transgender military ban

Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

President Biden signed an executive order on Monday overturning the Trump administration's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Why it matters: The ban, which allowed the military to bar openly transgender recruits and discharge people for not living as their sex assigned at birth, affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.

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