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On the brink of breakthrough, a Black biotech CEO struggles to find investors

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Roswell Biotechnologies
Undated photo of Paul Mola, founder and CEO of Roswell Biotechnologies

Getting funding for a start-up biotech company is seldom easy. But many Black biotech CEOs say they face an entrenched white good-old-boy network of venture capital investors who are usually not willing to take a chance on them.

Jonathan Wosen, West Coast Biotech and Life Sciences Reporter for STAT News reported about the experiences of many Black and brown biotech leaders trying to raise money from investors.

"One of the quotes that stuck with me is that, when you're an entrepreneur and you're trying to raise money from investors, their willingness to give you that money or not comes down to trust," Wosen said.

Wosen said Deldelp Medina, executive director of Black & Brown Founders, a national nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs of color, described a bias that exists that sees Black people, women and others, not as creators of technology, but as consumers.

Paul Mola is a Black San Diego biotech leader whose company, Roswell Biotechnologies, is on the brink of offering a breakthrough technology for DNA sequencing and diagnostics. But funding streams dried up and he's had to lay off half his staff. And Mola wonders, is it really because he’s Black?

"Just 1.2% of venture capital goes to Black startup entrepreneurs, according to Crunchbase, a company that compiles business information. It doesn’t help that the VC community suffers from its own dearth of diversity. About 4% of employees at venture firms are Black, according to the latest survey from Deloitte and the National Venture Capital Association," Wosen writes in a story published this month by STAT News.

Wosen joined Midday Edition Wednesday to talk about Mola's experience and how it mirrors the experiences of other non-white biotech leaders.