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Accele Biopharma founder lured to Oklahoma by life science potential

Clayton Duncan moved to Oklahoma City from North Carolina to found the Accele Biopharma business accelerator that has its offices in the Research Park near downtown.
Published: December 1, 2013

The North Carolina drawl in Clayton Duncan's voice is straight out of Chapel Hill, but at a recent luncheon he addressed an audience of Oklahoma City's bioscience leaders as an Oklahoman.

The North Carolina native made a presentation to the Oklahoma Bioscience Roundtable, explaining why he chose Oklahoma to establish a biotech business accelerator rather than the Research Triangle Park.

After selling a North Carolina-based life science business, Duncan looked around to start his “next big thing” as a bioscience entrepreneur.

“I came to Oklahoma almost three years ago, looked around and said ‘this would be a great place to build something,' Duncan told the audience. “There is a great spirit here.”

Duncan is founder and CEO of Accele Biopharma Inc., and managing director of its companion Accele Venture Partners L.P. venture capital fund.

In little more than a year, Accele Biopharma has invested in three promising life science ventures with a fourth deal about to close.

Turns out Duncan did approach the University of North Carolina about his idea to open a life science accelerator. But the school moved too slowly.

So, he sought advice from a friend and former business associate, Dr. Stephen Prescott, president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

Prescott urged Duncan to check out the possibilities of establishing his accelerator in Oklahoma.

“If Steve Prescott says do something, I'll do it,” Duncan said.

“So I came out and met with Steve, the Presbyterian Health Foundation and i2E.”

After a couple more visits and the promise of financial support to get the accelerator off the ground, Duncan made the move in 2011 and began raising funds for Accele Venture Partners. By August 2012, he had raised about $10 million mostly from Oklahoma foundations and began making investments.

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