VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Milestone Medica Corp., of Toronto, is a new venture development company that will focus on early-stage biomedical discoveries from Canadian universities and research centers.

David Shindler, Milestone's newly appointed president and CEO, told BioWorld International early-stage financing in the biosciences traditionally has been a neglected area by venture capital companies. This is because very often in early-stage research, the scientist rarely has a clearly defined product with patent protection and a detailed business plan, commodities that venture capital firms view as "essential" before a deal can be made.

Shindler was, until his new appointment, commercial director and senior executive of the Canadian Genetic Diseases Network (CGDN), of Vancouver, one of Canada's most successful networks of Centres of Excellence.

With 50 scientific members and their teams, based in 18 universities, hospitals and research centers across Canada, CGDN's focus is on the molecular and cellular causes of inherited diseases such as Alzheimer's, heart disease and cancer.

The network's dynamic alliances extend to more than 30 industrial partners and affiliates.

During his eight years as senior member of the CGDN management team, Shindler played a major role in capturing the commercial value of CGDN research and managing the organization's pipeline of intellectual property.

Most notably, he worked with CGDN scientists and university partners in patenting two Alzheimer's disease genes in 1995 and negotiating the largest university intellectual property agreement ever signed in Canadian history. "It has been a privilege to work at many levels with Canada's leaders in the field of human genetic disease research and development," Shindler said. "The relationships I have established amongst the Canadian academic community will be an invaluable resource in my new role."

Milestone Medica shareholders are Royal Bank Growth Co. (RBGC), of Toronto, and Research Corp. Technologies (RCT), of Tucson, Ariz. With seed-stage funding and management assistance, Milestone Medica will take promising Canadian innovations to the next stage of development and closer to commercialization.

According to Shindler, Milestone Medica is launching with a capital fund of C$15 million and its mission is to be Canada's first-choice partner for early-stage biomedical technology development.

"We will be identifying and investing in Canadian technology and working with researchers and universities in managing further development. This will be achieved by not only providing seed investment to overcome the development gap that occurs when technologies are not developed enough to attract traditional venture capital funding, but also by bringing management and planning expertise to help build value in fledgling companies," Shindler said.

As a further incentive for the academic entrepreneurs, Milestone Medica will be providing them with shares in the company so the scientists can participate in the long-term success of the venture company. This, Shindler said, is a unique feature of the operation.

Milestone Medica will utilize the extensive scientific and commercial resources of RCT, one of the most successful independent technology management companies in the world, to help evaluate projects and plan commercialization strategies. In 1996, for example, it distributed more than US$45 million of its US$71.6 million project revenues to the North American universities and research institutions whose technologies it manages.

RBGC, the largest shareholder, will contribute its expertise to the business development and management of the technologies supported by Milestone Medica. RBGC, a subsidiary of Royal Bank Financial Group, will act as a "fund of expertise."