Startups at ASU’s Skysong surpass more than $1B in external funding


Arizona State University has announced that the startups in the Skysong Innovations portfolio have raised more than $1 billion in external funding. This is a major accomplishment for Skysong Innovations, which is the entity that gets ASU research out into the world. 

“A billion dollars of investments is an incredible milestone that signals enormous accomplishment, but the real significance is in what the investment has enabled,” ASU President Michael Crow said in a statement.

ASU ranks 6th in the nation for total research expenditures among universities without a medical school. The rankings are given out by the National Science Foundation and consider a total of 759 universities across the country. 

The largest portion of funding has been focused on sustainability solutions, with $347.4 million dedicated to that area. Other major areas of focus include devices, energy and diagnostics. 

One of ASU’s main goals is to advance “research and discovery of public value,” and the Skysong Innovation Center was designed to do just that. Federal agencies recognize the center’s potential and have invested millions for research at the center. Such agencies include NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense and Health and Human Services.

The research at ASU is meant to address and even solve some of the biggest problems facing society today. Research spans health, space exploration, engineering, climate change and cybersecurity, among others. Skysong has brought several products to market that address those areas. For example, the center helped produce mechanical trees that pull carbon dioxide from the air and capture it for downstream use in construction. 

“We’ve built a water-capture company. We have nanomanufacturing companies. We have new materials. We have spinout companies in biotech. We have hundreds of technologies that we’ve spun out, and investors have invested a billion dollars to launch those companies and get them moving,” said Crow. 

Skysong Innovations was founded in 2003 and has since launched more than 160 startups, which have then contributed back to Arizona’s economy. In fact, between 2016 and 2020, startups have generated $700 million in gross state product, $450 million in cumulative labor income and $60 million in state and local tax revenues. 

“It is the impact of what has been done with the money invested that is truly exciting,” Crow said.

Another example of significant innovation is when biochemist Grant McFadden, School of Life Sciences professor and director of ASU’s Biodesign Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy, created an engineered virus that attacks cancer cells. McFadden founded OncoMyx Therapeutics, which is headquartered in downtown Phoenix, to produce the treatment. To date, the company has raised $25 million in investment. 

“We focus on deal flow and economic impact for Arizona and for the world,” CEO Augustine Cheng said. “It’s about moving university technologies into the marketplace and real-world impact in terms of products and services benefiting people and job creation in terms of startups.”

McFadden was featured on the first season of AZ Tech Podcast. To learn more about his research, watch the interview below.