Stephan Christgau, Amanda Hayward, Andreas Segerros and Magnus Persson (Eir Ventures)

A new ven­ture fund amid a pan­dem­ic? In the Nordics? Eir Ven­tures brings it on with €76M first close

From Phar­ma­cia and Lund­beck to No­vo Nordisk and As­traZeneca, the Nordic coun­tries have been the birth­place for some lega­cy phar­ma com­pa­nies. But for all that his­to­ry and rep­u­ta­tion, Stephan Christ­gau counts on­ly five spe­cial­ized life sci­ence in­vestors back­ing biotechs to­day.

That leaves plen­ty of room for Eir Ven­tures, a brand new ven­ture fund Christ­gau — one of the founders of No­vo Seeds — is launch­ing with three oth­er vet­er­an VCs.

Speak­ing to End­points News from Copen­hagen with fel­low man­ag­ing part­ner An­dreas Segerros, he spoke

“You have a num­ber of good clus­ters in the Nordic,” he said, point­ing to the south­ern Swe­den / east­ern Den­mark area known as the Medicon Val­ley, places like Gothen­burg, Stock­holm and even Oslo, Nor­way. “I would say the Nordic re­gion and the hotspots here are top three in Eu­rope. That may be a big word. But yes we have Ox­ford/Cam­bridge, and we maybe have the Paris area, but what we see here are some emerg­ing big list­ed com­pa­nies like Gen­mab and So­bi and so on.”

The in­creas­ing costs of do­ing busi­ness in the US hubs, Segerros added, are start­ing to get pro­hib­i­tive. Be it re­al es­tate, salary or drug de­vel­op­ment, you can do more with your dime in the ar­eas Eir Ven­tures will be op­er­at­ing.

As a re­sult, the firm ex­pects to take a “very mean­ing­ful role and an ac­tive own­er­ship po­si­tion” by putting in be­tween €5 mil­lion and €7 mil­lion, giv­ing them a range of 12 to 16 port­fo­lio com­pa­nies. The ide­al can­di­date will be a lit­tle be­yond dis­cov­ery stage, though Eir Ven­tures does want to in­clude a few lat­er-stage projects in the mix.

Around 5% of the fund — which might bal­loon in­to €100 mil­lion lat­er — will go to around 15 ul­tra ear­ly-stage op­por­tu­ni­ties they call “seedlings.”

“So it will be a con­vert­ible loan, a few hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars, but will be cre­at­ed to fund sort of crit­i­cal killer ex­per­i­ments or oth­er crit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties that will make the com­pa­ny fund­able,” Christ­gau said.

Mag­nus Pers­son, who built up Swe­den’s Health­Cap to be one of the rare spe­cial­ist life sci­ence VC play­ers in the Nordics be­fore get­ting re­cruit­ed to The Col­umn Group’s San Fran­cis­co of­fice, is join­ing Christ­gau and Segerros as man­ag­ing part­ner. The trio has al­so wooed Aman­da Hay­ward to be a spe­cial part­ner out of Con­necti­cut while con­tin­u­ing her day job scout­ing new rare dis­ease drugs for Rally­bio.

Al­though Covid-19 has com­pli­cat­ed and de­layed things, caus­ing some be­liev­ers to with­draw, the four an­chor in­vestors are weath­er­ing the storm, the team said. They are Sam­in­vest, a ven­ture cap­i­tal com­pa­ny found­ed by the Swedish Gov­ern­ment, Væk­st­fonden, the Dan­ish state’s in­vest­ment fund, No­vo Hold­ings, as well as the Eu­ro­pean In­vest­ment Fund.

“Copen­hagen or Stock­holm is not Boston, and may nev­er be that,” Christ­gau al­lowed. “But if you go back 20 years, I was — maybe 30 years back. I was at Kendall Square and at that point in time, there was re­al­ly not [much] to write home about with re­gard to life sci­ence. So re­gions can de­vel­op. I’m not sit­ting here say­ing that we be­lieve that we’ll re­pro­duce Kendall Square, but we see a good tra­jec­to­ry of the life sci­ence in­dus­try here and we be­lieve this is the right place to be for a new ven­ture fund.”

5AM Ven­tures: Fu­el­ing the Next Gen­er­a­tion of In­no­va­tors

By RBC Capital Markets
With Andy Schwab, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at 5AM Ventures

Key Points

Prescription Digital Therapeutics, cell therapy technologies, and in silico medicines will be a vital part of future treatment modalities.
Unlocking the potential of the microbiome could be the missing link to better disease diagnosis.
Growing links between academia, industry, and venture capital are spinning out more innovative biotech companies.
Biotech is now seen by investors as a growth space as well as a safe haven, fuelling the recent IPO boom.

Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

Pssst: That big Bio­haven Alzheimer's study? It was a bust. Even the sub­group analy­sis ex­ecs tout­ed was a flop

You know it’s bad when a biopharma player plucks out a subgroup analysis for a positive take — even though it was way off the statistical mark for success, like everything else.

So it was for Biohaven $BHVN on MLK Monday, as the biotech reported on the holiday that their Phase II/III Alzheimer’s study for troriluzole flunked both co-primary endpoints as well as a key biomarker analysis.

The drug — a revised version of the ALS drug riluzole designed to regulate glutamate — did not “statistically differentiate” from placebo on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale 11 (ADAS-cog) and the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB).  The “hippocampal volume” assessment by MRI also failed to distinguish itself from placebo for all patients fitting the mild-to-moderate disease profile they had established for the study.

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Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein (AP, Images)

Poll: Should Joshua Sharf­stein or Janet Wood­cock lead the FDA from here?

It’s time for a new FDA commissioner to come on board, a rite of passage for Joe Biden’s administration that should help seal the new president’s rep on seeking out the experts to lead the government over the next 4 years.

As of now, the competition for the top job appears to have narrowed down to 2 people: The longtime CDER chief Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein, the former principal deputy at the FDA under Peggy Hamburg. Both were appointed by Barack Obama.

The IPO queue adds 5 more biotechs hop­ing to ring in 2021 by blitz­ing Nas­daq

Following a record year for IPOs — in terms of both proceeds and count — there’s already a long lineup of biotechs ready to jump onto Nasdaq in the new year. The companies are likely looking for much higher raises than they initially projected on their S-1s. Now it’s time to see if investors are still hungry for another round of biotech stocks.

Sana helped set the pace early on, as its founders look to divvy up a fortune from their IPO. And late last week 5 more biotechs crowded in, looking to pick up the pace where 2020 left off. Here they are:

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Dan Skovronsky, Eli Lilly CSO (Lilly via Facebook)

Eli Lil­ly tees up dis­cov­ery pact worth more than $1.6B with Merus for T cell-fo­cused bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies

Under science chief Dan Skovronsky, Eli Lilly has taken some big swings at next-gen therapies, including trying to find the next big thing in oncology. Now, after one early failure in the field, Lilly is going back to the bispecific antibody well with a new deal with a Dutch biotech.

Lilly will pay $40 million upfront with an additional $20 million equity stake in Merus NV to identify and develop three bispecific antibodies looking to engage the CD3 antigen on T cells and redirect immune cells, the Indianapolis pharma giant said Tuesday.

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Sekar Kathiresan (Verve)

'Bluest of blue-chip in­vestors' pump $94M in­to Sekar Kathire­san's quest to bring CRISPR to the heart

Going into his first JP Morgan conference, Sekar Kathiresan had some major news to share. His ambitious cardiovascular-focused startup, Verve Therapeutics, had designated the PCSK9 base editor as its lead program, homed in on severe heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia as the first indication, and released animal data suggesting the in vivo edits to the monkey livers last up to six months. For a company that had just been in the public for less than a year, “it was wonderful.”

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CEO Marshall Fordyce (Vera)

UP­DAT­ED: An am­bi­tious GV-backed gene edit­ing up­start re-emerges as a one-drug kid­ney com­pa­ny

In September 2019, Trucode Gene Repair launched, after two-plus years of early development, with $34 million from GV and Kleiner Perkins and ambitious plans to take on the raft of CRISPR companies with a new form of gene editing.

Those plans, though, would only last a few months. By February, company leadership was already pivoting, filing a trademark and domain name for a new company, called Vera Therapeutics. On Monday, they completed the switch, “launching” with an $80 million Series C round led by Abingworth and plans to focus their efforts on atacicept, a 20-year-old molecule now in development for kidney disease.

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A car­dio­vas­cu­lar cell ther­a­py play­er grabs $54M for a new be­gin­ning — where next-gen CAR-T ap­proach fea­tures promi­nent­ly

Before the advent of CAR-T, the term cell therapy conjured up very different images. Sure, there were cancer immunotherapies like Dendreon’s Provenge, but more common were the various flavors of stem cell therapies and cell transplantation.

None of that has gone away, even if they’ve been nudged out of the spotlight — and a little biotech has garnered $54 million (£40 million) to show that both the old and new ideas of cell (and gene) therapy can mesh together to form a special breed of platform company.

Andrew Allen (Gritstone)

As coro­n­avirus vari­ants trig­ger new alarms, the NIH is putting an un­der-the-radar ‘next-gen’ vac­cine in­to PhI

Over the past year, the world has been transfixed by the development of new vaccines to fight SARS-CoV-2. In a frenzy of activity, the new mRNA approach has delivered pioneering emergency approvals in record time. And with some setbacks, the more traditional big players are coming along with added jabs as the most affluent nations in the world begin to vaccinate large portions of their populations.

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