A virtual biotech incubator is launching with the help of Evotec and Samsara, looking for a few good scientists in need of seed cash for spinouts
By any measure, money has been pouring into the biopharma R&D field for more than 5 years now, with every stage of development crowded with investors looking for the next big thing in therapeutics.
Value inflection points are the guiding star of that multibillion-dollar business.
But a busy Samsara BioCapital, the family fund KCK and the big European CRO Evotec are backing the play of a pair of investors who have staked out a field where there doesn’t seem to be quite so much density.
Tom Novak and Michelle Kim-Danely are launching a virtual incubator called Autobahn Labs, which is at the beginning stages of inking deals with academic labs to seed spinout companies for their discoveries. Samsara and KCK are providing up to $5 million per operation, with Evotec on board to lend its extensive contract platform support to the fledglings that sign on. And the scientists can also tap Autobahn’s advisory group as they steer their little companies through preclinical development.
“Our plan,” Novak tells me, “is to enter into partnerships with major universities and find programs that are at very early stage, 3 to 4 years ahead of the clinic.”
And the rare few that make it to launch can look to one of their investors to take the lead on an A round.
To get started, Autobahn has signed up UCLA on kind of a master contract that lays out the terms covering IP and equity and so on — and no, they aren’t detailing the particulars of the contract to me.
For scientists without select VCs on speed dial, that might look quite appealing. And now Novak and Kim-Danely are looking to replicate the UCLA deal, primarily along the West Coast but also back east as well as Europe.
Both of the principals at Autobahn are realistic about the likelihood of failure. They estimate that 85% to 90% of their seed plays won’t make it to the clinic and that next level of development. But getting 1 out of 10 small investments to pay off could work out well. Novak says they have enough money for 8 ongoing projects at a time.
“It’s important to have different models, different sweet spots,” says Kim-Danely. “For universities it’s another arrow in their quivers.”
As for disease areas and tech, the two say they are completely agnostic.