A UK biotech looks to bring alliance between GSK, J&J, AstraZeneca, and top universities stateside with its first megaround
Richard Mason was working at the J&J Innovation Center in London about six years ago when the company linked arms with two other pharmas and three of the UK’s leading universities to form Apollo Therapeutics — a translational medicine group aimed at spinning out new therapies. Now he’s running the show at Apollo, and he’s pulled in $145 million to drive those programs into the clinic.
Mason unveiled what he calls Apollo’s “first institutional financing” early Thursday morning, which he plans on using to beef up operations both in the UK and the US, and advance a portfolio of more than 15 programs.
“We had this fantastic period of just heads down, loads and loads of R&D, and now it’s time to really invest in it,” the new CEO told Endpoints News.
Apollo was established in late 2015 as a joint venture between the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and J&J Innovation to “bridge the gap” between academic science and patients.
“They knew they had great innovation and great scientists,” Mason said of university researchers. “But actually just the know-how on industrial standard R&D, it was difficult to access.”
Apollo’s programs fall into three main buckets: oncology, inflammatory disorders and rare disease. Mason is holding his cards close for now, and declined to say much about the portfolio aside from that it spans a range of modalities, including a number of small molecules and biologics. Last July, Apollo out-licensed its first program — a gene therapy developed at the University College London — to Deerfield Management.
The default plan is to take the programs to clinical proof-of-concept, then pick the best ones to take into later development and commercialization while licensing out the rest, Mason explained. Apollo will probably be in the clinic with “a number of programs” in the next 12 months or so, he added.
“What’s fundamentally different about it is your classic venture-driven biotech model, the intent, nearly always, is eventually to sell the company,” said Patient Square Capital’s Jim Momtazee, who is joining Apollo’s board. “This business model has that optionality at the program level, but the intent of Apollo Therapeutics as a business enterprise is to be around fundamentally forever. And you do things quite differently when the intent is to be around fundamentally forever.”
Apollo is using some of its funds to build a new facility in the Boston area, and in the next 18 months Mason plans to have about 30 full-time staffers split between both sides of the Atlantic.
“Very naturally now, there’s a huge opportunity to use this as a springboard to, you know, with the investment from Patient Square Capital and others, to really drive this forward as an independent biopharmaceutical company,” he said.
The round was led by Patient Square Capital, with Rock Springs Capital, Reimagined Ventures and UCL Technology Fund chiming in.