Drug Development

$95M mega-round in hand, Elaine Sullivan sets out to build a European oncology player

elaine-sullivan-ceo-carrick-therapeutics-ltd

Elaine Sullivan, CEO, Carrick Therapeutics

A trans-Atlantic investment syndicate that includes Google has come together to bankroll a European oncology startup with a $95 million mega-round. And the biotech, helmed by experienced pharma R&D exec Elaine Sullivan, has already lined up three development programs with plans to add more in the very near future.

The big idea here has less to do with any one program and scientific founder than it has to do with the continental-sized partnering aspirations at Carrick Therapeutics.

“I wanted to set up a European oncology company,” Sullivan tells me this morning, without a hint of braggadocio. “The whole concept of the company was to link a number of investigators together to create a synergy around the company.”

That’s the kind of big-picture thinking that Arch Venture Partners, in particular, loves to engage in. Neil Woodford’s Woodford Investments, which co-led the round with Arch, was founded on the notion that Europe in general and the UK in particular has been better at science than the art of investing in science. And GV (Google Ventures to you and me) jumped in along with Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds, Cambridge Innovation Capital, Evotec AG and Lightstone Ventures.

“What we saw, Arch and ourselves,” adds Sullivan, “was amazing science in Europe that was undercapitalized.”

Sullivan is staying purposefully vague right now about the biotech’s plans, but that’s not for lack of strategic thinking. The AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly veteran says the biotech, which will be based in Dublin with R&D ops in Ireland and Oxford, already has close ties with noted scientific investigator Steve Jackson at the University of Cambridge and Cancer Research UK. More are being put in place.

Oncology deals have been all the rage on both sides of the Atlantic for the past three years, as new drugs rip through the clinic at record speeds. But Carrick believes it’s in the right spot to put together a notable pipeline in little time.

The company is working with a staff of 45, says Sullivan, which can easily be scaled up as the pipeline fills out. And she says she’ll be a lot more forthcoming after a few more months of collaboration building, when the company can detail the mechanisms it’s focused on as well as the drugs it has in both clinical as well as pre-clinical development.

I plan to take her up on that offer.


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