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Greg Bowman, a University of Pennsylvania biophysicist, had the kind of idea biotech venture capitalists salivate over. His lab had been working on how to drug “cryptic sites” on proteins that were previously thought unreachable by drug molecules. Machine learning, he believed, would make new types of medicine possible. The idea seemed ready to be spun out of his lab and into a company.

But when Bowman hooked up with a young entrepreneur, Anuj Sharma, to create a new company, Decrypt, they didn’t choose one of the big venture firms to partner with. Instead, they went with an unknown outfit called Curie.Bio. The reason: The terms of the deal were simply much better. Most venture firms would have either required that Bowman and Sharma give up control of their company at an early stage in exchange for taking a hands-on role or would have simply given them money without any help.

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