IU invests $500,000 in Richard DiMarchi’s latest biotech startup

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Serial entrepreneur Richard DiMarchi is at it again.

The Indiana research chemist, who has set up five companies since retiring from Eli Lilly and Co. in 2003 as head of biotechnology research, is busy at work on his latest.

The new venture is called MBX Biosciences Inc., and it aims to develop therapeutics to treat rare endocrine disorders.

The company has already raised $2.5 million from Twilight Venture Partners II and the BioCrossroads-managed Indiana Seed Fund III. The Indiana University Philanthropic Venture Fund also has invested $500,000, the university announced Tuesday.

DiMarchi, a chemistry professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, is one of the co-founders, along with Kent Hawryluk and Tim Knickerbocker.

DiMarchi and Hawryluk worked together on two previous Indiana start-ups, Marcadia Biotech and MB2, which developed technology for metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

The name of the newest company, MBX, is a takeoff on Marcadia Biotech. At MBX, DiMarchi is  chief scientific officer, and Hawryluk is executive chairman. Knickerbocker, a former construction project engineer, will be chief operating officer.

“We’re in the very early stages, doing discovery and early testing,” said Hawryluk.

DiMarchi is in France this week and was unavailable for comment, Hawryluk said.

MBX has a Carmel mailing address but will operate in its early days out of DiMarchi’s chemistry laboratory at IU.

The startup has several ties with IU, including an agreement for the university to support research at DiMarchi’s lab. DiMarchi has more than 100 patents and has published more than 150 scientific papers.

MBX’s executives will wear several hats. Hawryluk also works full-time as chief business officer for Avidity Biosciences, Inc., a privately held biotech company based in LaJolla, California. DiMarchi, in addition to teaching chemistry at IU, oversees an Indianapolis laboratory for Denmark-based Novo Nordisk.

DiMarchi worked at Lilly for 22 years before retiring in 2003 as group vice president for biotechnology and product development.

His other startups include Ambryx, Assembly Biosciences and Calibrium. All of the startups were sold, reaping more than $500 million for founders and investors.

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