Matter gets $4.4 million from private sector

November 19, 2014

By John Pletz, Crain’s Chicago Business

Matter, the health care-technology incubator being created at the Merchandise Mart, has lined up $4.4 million in private funding, attracting support from some of the industry’s biggest players.

The private-sector commitments exceed the $4 million in state funding that launched the incubator, which is expected to open early next year.

The idea of a health-technology incubator, along the lines of the digital-technology hub 1871, was well-received. But there was always a question of how much support would come from the region’s major life-science companies.

Among the backers announced today are AbbVie, Astellas Pharma US, Horizon Pharma, Marathon Pharmaceuticals and Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

“This is an opportunity to build a community in the Midwest and Chicago,” said Jim Robinson, president of Northbrook-based Astellas. “I spent six years in New Jersey, where there was a tight, collaborative biopharma industry. You have some of the best academic research centers in the world right here. (Matter) helps build awareness of the life-science community here. It helps in reputational awareness and recruiting for all of us.”

Other supporters include hospitals NorthShore University HealthSystem and OSF Healthcare/Jump Center, as well as State Farm Insurance. Service providers that signed on include Avia, Healthios Capital Markets, EdgeOne Medical, Ernst & Young, Insight Product Development, JPMorgan Chase, Silicon Valley Bank, Jones Day and Sidley Austin. CDW, Comcast and Crain’s Chicago Business also made commitments.

“Investing in, and supporting innovation in, health care is core to AbbVie’s mission,” said Jim Sullivan, AbbVie’s vice president of pharmaceutical discovery.

A Matter spokeswoman said the organization expects to announce additional partners in the coming weeks and months.

Already it appears to be drawing a broader base of support than previous efforts, connecting traditional life-science giants in Lake County with other players downtown and downstate.

“You had strong leadership of the mayor and the governor, and you had business leaders like J.B. Pritzker, Pat Ryan Jr. and others get behind it immediately. Leadership matters,” Robinson said. “It’s situated perfectly, between the academic centers, with all the highways leading downtown and the two airports. And there was proof of concept based on the model of 1871.”

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