Norris Institute establishes new fund for health-care innovation

The William C. Norris Institute at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business announced today a new seed-capital investment fund – the “James Rogers Fox, M.D., Fund for Healthcare Innovation” – to support early-stage health ventures based in Minnesota.

The fund is made possible by a $1 million bequest from Fox, who died at age 85 last December. A well-known physician and media personality, Fox was instrumental in William Norris' 2001 decision to merge his nonprofit institute into St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business. Norris, founder and longtime CEO and chairman of Control Data Corp., was 95 when he died in August 2006.

“This new fund made possible by Dr. Fox’s generosity will expand the Norris Institute’s ability to provide much needed initial capital to entrepreneurs with technologies that are not only innovative and potentially lucrative, but also socially beneficial,” said Michael P. Moore, the institute’s director. “The Fox fund will continue his legacy of service and communication to improve health care.”

The Norris Institute also announced that the Fox fund’s first investment has been made in MEDNET USA, a Minneapolis startup that provides secure electronic access to health-care records.

The investment in MEDNET USA will help the company expand its secure Internet system, which enables health-care providers, payers, emergency personnel, public health and other health practitioners to access health-care and insurance information on patients, any time and anywhere, while protecting patient privacy.

The company was founded by current CEO, John Fraser. Fraser previously co-founded VisionShare, which provides electronic payment services to Medicare vendors.

MEDNET USA currently supports the exchange of critical patient information in hospitals and clinics in Ohio and Minnesota, and it is building similar relationships nationwide. It provides services to the Community Health Information Collaborative of Duluth and is working with that organization to expand the system throughout northeastern Minnesota.

More About Dr. Fox

Dr. James Rogers Fox was a physician who broadcast health advice on radio and television from the 1940s to the 1970s. He authored Dr. Fox’s Family Health Guide in 1965 and he served as medical director for the Minneapolis Public Schools and for Control Data Corp., where he formed his close relationship with Norris. Fox also helped to establish the James Rogers Fox Communications Center, which is part of the Opus College of Business and located on St. Thomas' downtown Minneapolis campus.

More About the Norris Institute

Since becoming part of the Opus College of Business, the Norris Institute has made seed-capital investments of $50,000 to $175,000 in 26 entrepreneurial ventures. The institute has exited profitably from four of those companies, and the proceeds were reinvested in new ventures.

There are currently 21 active companies in the institute’s investment portfolio, 12 of which were started by St. Thomas business alumni.