The Catalyst Fund

The Catalyst Fund

Our signature internal funding mechanism is the Catalyst Fund, a $15-million technology development program established in 2015 and managed by Pappas Capital. The Catalyst Fund is designed to provide seed loan investment to 25 to 30 technologies in the next three to five years.

How Does the Catalyst Fund Work

In 2015, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center created the Catalyst Fund, a $15-million technology development program to accelerate the development of innovative life science technologies at Wake Forest Baptist. These technologies include medical devices, drugs, vaccines, restorative medicines, diagnostics and digital health. The program aims to invest in as many as 25 – 30 novel, high-potential technologies over 3 – 5 years.

Managed by Pappas Capital, a leading life science investment firm in Durham, NC, the Catalyst Fund makes investments in the form of project funding for Wake Forest Baptist technologies being developed at Wake Forest Innovations that have the potential to make a significant impact on clinical practice and to attract licensing interest. Technologies are presented to a steering committee comprised of external scientists and industry experts. The steering committee then makes recommendations to Pappas Capital about which technologies merit investment, with a corresponding development plan. Catalyst-supported technologies remain the intellectual property of Wake Forest Baptist.

Awards from the Catalyst Fund are provided according to the needs of the project. The goal is to support activities that can increase the value of a technology and the likelihood of it being licensed by an established company or a start-up that will complete its product development, secure its regulatory approval, manufacture it and introduce it to clinical practice and the marketplace. Such activities include:

  • Advanced prototyping
  • Chemical synthesis
  • Pharmacokinetic studies
  • Preclinical or clinical proof-of-concept studies
  • Safety testing
  • Market research

By making significant investments in our proprietary technologies through the Catalyst Fund, Wake Forest Innovations and Pappas Capital are working together to translate high-impact technologies into valuable products that can improve health—the mission of the Medical Center and a win for patients and industry partners.

If you are a member of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, learn more about how the Catalyst Fund can be used to develop your technologies.

Selected Project Highlights

To date, the Catalyst Fund has supported eight technology projects, two of which have been licensed to new start-up companies. Initial funding commitments for these projects total nearly $2 million, with another $2 million reserved to support downstream project milestones. Individual project commitments range from $300,000 to $1 million, including downstream tranches.

Primary Hyperoxaluria (PH)

PH is a group of rare genetic diseases that cause recurrent kidney stones. Catalyst is supporting two projects that are developing orally bioavailable small molecule treatments for two distinct metabolic targets involved in PH pathogenesis. The effort involves industry-caliber medicinal chemistry.

Collaborators: University of Alabama-Birmingham, Department of Urology; Mayo Clinic Hyperoxaluria Center; Oxalosis and Hyperoxaluria Foundation


  • W. Todd Lowther, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry, Wake Forest School of Medicine
  • Ross P. Holmes, University of Alabama-Birmingham

Chondrial Therapeutics

A TAT-frataxin fusion protein under development for the treatment of Friedreich’s ataxia and other mitochondrial protein replacement disorders.

Catalyst participated in the company’s Series A equity funding round led by Deerfield Management Company.


  • R. Mark Payne, previously Associate Professor of Pediatrics, now at Indiana University

Non-Migrating Stent

A novel stent technology platform with primary application in difficult-to-stent settings such as biliary duct procedures.

The Catalyst-supported project goal is a commercial prototype evaluated in proof-of-concept large animal studies.


  • Cliff Howard, MD, Assistant Professor of Radiology

Novel Antibody for Lung Cancer

Development of an antibody for a novel immune checkpoint with the potential to eradicate cancer stem cells and enhance tumor immune response in lung cancer and other cancers.


  • Hui-Kuan Lin, PhD, Professor of Cancer Biology and Scientific Director, Prostate Cancer Center of Excellence


A patient-facing, integrated electronic health record and post-discharge care management planning tool for chronic conditions such as stroke.

COMPASS (Comprehensive Post-acute Stroke Services) is the basis for a 49-center PCORI-funded trial assessing the tool’s ability to improve post-acute readmission rates. Catalyst has supported the development of an EMR-compatible, market-ready product.


  • Pamela Duncan, PhD, PT Professor of Neurology and Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine
  • Allison Brashear, MD, Professor and Chair of Neurology
  • Cheryl Bushnell, MD, Associate Professor and Director of Wake Forest Comprehensive Stroke Center
  • Ralph D’Agostino, PhD, Professor of Public Health Sciences and Director of Biostatistic Core, Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Scott Rushing, Director of the Research Information Systems Unit, Department of Biostatistics, Division of Public Health Sciences

Want to Learn More?

Start a conversation with us if you have questions about how we invest in our technologies or want more information about the technologies we support.
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