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The Check Is Not In The Mail...

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal Reports:

Burrill seeking $1B for Elk Run, but 'no checks yet'

Biotech investor Steve Burrill is out raising a $1 billion fund to support the massive bioscience project planned for Elk Run, near Rochester, though he said he has "no checks yet."

Burrill is partnering with Woodland, Calif.-based Tower Investments, the real estate developer behind the project. Tower Investments has several times declined to comment on to what extent the project is already financed.

Both Tower and Burrill are expecting to lure startups working on technology developed at Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota to their development. Burrill also said he envisions the project drawing attention from institutions in neighboring states, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"If I stand on a street corner at Elk Run and wave around $500 million, people will come," he said.

Still, Burrill acknowledged that raising a venture fund is difficult in the current economy, saying he's received some "push back" from the pension funds, companies, and other organizations he's approached. "There are a lot of questions, 'why Elk Run?' and 'why life sciences?' It's difficult, but this is a good opportunity."

Burrill said he met Tower Investment's leaders through a mutual contact at Mayo Clinic. However, Elk Run's backers do not have a formal agreement with the clinic. "I would put us in the best-friends category. There are no formal secret society or legal agreements."

Mayo has long had its own approach to spinning off startups that are developing its technology. Mayo has a $10 million venture fund and an active office of intellectual property. Over the years, however, the majority of those startups have moved out of Minnesota. Out of Mayo's 35 spinoffs, only three have remained based in Minnesota, a Mayo official told the Business Journal in 2007.

And many of the companies that have stayed in the state, such as NeoChord, Torax Medical Inc. and Muve Inc., are based in the Twin Cities metro area -- not in Rochester.

"At a 30,000-foot level, Minnesota is the world headquarters for med-tech. Tower is a world-class real estate company. We are a world class venture capital firm. There's no shortage of opportunities."



Maybe Bob Bruininks, Frank Cerra, and Deborah Powell should join the board of this operation - when they retire? They've had a lot of experience with world class operations...

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