Preterm infant care company raises $5 million

A precision medicine company started by a Wisconsin entrepreneur has completed a $5 million funding round, with a goal of improving health outcomes for premature babies.

Astarte Medical co-founder and Chief Financial Officer Tammi Jantzen currently lives in Platteville, where some of her earliest backers also reside.

“We appreciate them so much,” she said. “They took the biggest risk out of all our investors way early… I don’t know if we had even envisioned what the product would look like at that point.”

With the addition of the latest Series A funds, Jantzen and her co-founders have raised a total of about $6 million. The latest investment will support development of three separate products meant for care providers working in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU.

The first product, NICUtrition Analytics, is a data analysis platform that helps hospitals determine how well they’re complying with their own metrics for preterm infant care. The second is an interactive guidance platform to be used at the patient’s bedside to track feeding and other activities.

Jantzen says both will be launched sometime this year, with the analytics product coming slightly sooner. By the end of the year, she says they’re hoping to have the guidance product up and running at several hospitals.

The third product under development is called MAGI, and involves bringing in data from genome sequencing and electronic health records in order to predict gut health in premature babies. This system is still in its early stages, and Jantzen says a clinical trial is needed before it can be brought to market.

“We’d love to have it piloted by the end of 2020 with commercial launch in 2021,” she said. “We’ll likely need a follow-on round to commercially launch that… likely in 2020.”

Jantzen and one of her co-founders Tracy Warren worked together for 18 years at various venture capital firms, starting with Early Stage Enterprises in 2001. Jantzen was CFO at Battelle Ventures while Warren was general partner for about 12 years, before they started Astarte Ventures in 2013.

“Now we’re more focused on companies around women’s and infants’ health; we continue to make investments on our own in that space,” she said.  

The two have also put more than $1 million of their own money into Astarte Medical.

After traveling around the country and visiting many hospitals focused on health care for women and infants, Jantzen and Warren met their third co-founder, Dr. Katherine Gregory, who was working in Boston as a NICU nursing specialist.

Jantzen says she and Warren were so intrigued by her work into improving health for premature babies, they decided to self-fund Astarte Medical, which was founded about three years ago.

Now, Gregory is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, where she’s currently performing translational research focused on infant gut health and nutrition. She’s also the associate chief nursing officer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  

To get their early-stage company off the ground, the co-founders decided to pursue a “friends and family” funding round targeting angel investors. Jantzen said some family friends saw the opportunity to invest in a promising company led by people they knew and trusted.

Tim Mergen, one of the angel investors that joined that initial round, said he and his wife had been friends with Tammi and her husband for years. When the discussion came up about Astarte Medical, he said they knew they wanted to be involved in their vision.

“It seemed like the right thing to do,” he said. “There really wasn’t anything like it for helping preterm babies.”

Investors in the latest round include Viking Global Investors LP, Lunsford Capital, OCA Ventures, Keiretsu Forum MidAtlantic, Keiretsu Capital Fund, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Wing VC and Next Act Fund.


–By Alex Moe