A key element required for translating new knowledge into effective therapies is early-stage venture capital that finances the work needed to identify a lead molecule or medical device prototype and to develop it to the proof-of-concept stage. This early investment is distinguished by great uncertainty over whether the molecule or prototype is safe and effective, the stability of the regulatory standards to which clinical trials are designed, and the likelihood that large follow-on investments for commercial development can be secured. Regulatory and reimbursement policies have a profound impact on the amount of capital and the types of life science projects that investors pursue. In this article I analyze several recent trends in early-stage venture capital funding, describe how these trends are influenced by regulatory and reimbursement policies, and discuss the role of policy makers in bringing new treatments to market. Policy makers can foster renewed private investment into critically needed early-stage products by increasing Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding and public support for clinical trials in targeted areas of interest; creating regulatory pathways to enable early testing of experimental compounds in limited populations; and offering economic incentives for investors and developers in designated therapeutic areas.