An­dreessen drums up a $450M fund to back their vi­sion for en­gi­neer­ing bi­ol­o­gy

Im­age: Vi­jay Pande, An­dreessen Horowitz.


An­dreessen Horowitz be­lieves that AI and ma­chine learn­ing are cre­at­ing a new biotech world with a lot less guess­work in­volved. And to­day they have a fresh $450 mil­lion fund to in­vest in the emerg­ing field.

Jorge Conde

Two years ago, Stan­ford’s Vi­jay Pande took the first step with a $200 mil­lion in­au­gur­al fund. Then a few months ago Jorge Conde joined as a new part­ner in the small group, sig­nal­ing to­day’s an­nounce­ment. Conde jumped to An­dreessen from Sy­ros, where he was chief strat­e­gy of­fi­cer. And he got out just ahead of a dis­as­trous pre­sen­ta­tion a few days ago at ASH on weak re­sults for their lead drug, which tanked the stock.

The part­ners told TechCrunch that they have the same ba­sic strat­e­gy for this new fund, in­vest­ing $2 mil­lion or $3 mil­lion in promis­ing seed com­pa­nies and up­ping that to the $5 mil­lion to $10 mil­lion mark for the launch round in search of en­gi­neered prod­ucts.

In a blog post, they ex­plained their vi­sion of the new world ahead, and the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind their in­vest­ment strat­e­gy.

To hear them tell it, ma­chine learn­ing holds the key to a much more ra­tio­nal biotech world, where com­pu­ta­tion­al pow­er will be able to point pre­cise­ly to ther­a­peu­tic and re­lat­ed break­throughs. Pande has been do­ing some of the work at Stan­ford, where he’s been ex­per­i­ment­ing with us­ing da­ta points to pre­dict tox­i­col­o­gy for drugs. The in­tu­itive as­pect of drug de­vel­op­ment, based on years in the lab, he be­lieves will fade away.

From their blog:

We’ve made 12 in­vest­ments to date, span­ning ear­ly de­tec­tion of can­cer, heart dis­ease, and longevi­ty to pa­tient co­or­di­na­tion and ad­vances in food sci­ence re­mov­ing the need for pes­ti­cides while in­creas­ing shelf life. What they all share in com­mon — what we look for — is some­thing that came in to ac­cel­er­ate the in­dus­try, much like Moore’s Law did for com­put­ing… and for the a16z bio funds, that some­thing is the abil­i­ty to en­gi­neer bi­ol­o­gy. This is the point at which bio ad­vances be­yond em­piri­cism — time-con­sum­ing, in­com­plete, un­pre­dictable — and be­comes more of an en­gi­neered dis­ci­pline, al­low­ing us to plan along a roadmap, make in­cre­men­tal in­no­va­tions, and progress in a very sys­tem­at­ic way. It’s the point at which you can build a vi­able, scal­able com­pa­ny, not just a re­search project.

To be sure, they’re back­ing small steps in that di­rec­tion right now.

An­dreessen’s in­vest­ments so far span com­pa­nies like Freenome — a liq­uid biop­sy di­ag­no­sis tech — and Car­dio­gram’s app to de­tect atri­al fib­ril­la­tion us­ing the da­ta gath­ered by an Ap­ple watch. Apeel is de­vel­op­ing a nat­ur­al coat­ing to ex­tend the shelf life of food. Pa­tient­Ping keeps physi­cians up­dat­ed on all the var­i­ous points of care their pa­tients use.

That leaves a wide health­care scope for these two as the pi­o­neers in AI and ma­chine learn­ing ramp up new biotech projects.

Mi­no­ryx and Sper­o­genix ink an ex­clu­sive li­cense agree­ment to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize lerigli­ta­zone in Chi­na

September 23, 2020 – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai (China) and Mataró, Barcelona (Spain)  

Minoryx will receive an upfront and milestone payments of up to $78 million, as well as double digit royalties on annual net sales 

Sperogenix will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialize leriglitazone for the treatment of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD), a rare life-threatening neurological condition

FDA chief Stephen Hahn on Capitol Hill earlier this week (Getty Images)

As FDA buck­les un­der the strain of a pan­dem­ic work­load, Trump again ac­cus­es the agency of a po­lit­i­cal hit job

Peter Marks appeared before a virtual SVB Leerink audience yesterday and said that his staff at FDA’s CBER is on the verge of working around the clock. Manufacturing inspections, policy work and sponsor communications have all been pushed down the to-do list so that they can be responsive to Covid-related interactions. And the agency’s objective right now? “To save as many lives as we can,” Marks said, likening the mortality on the current outbreak as equivalent to “a nuclear bomb on a small city.”

Daniel O'Day, Gilead CEO (Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Play-by-play of Gilead­'s $21B Im­munomedics buy­out de­tails a fren­zied push — and mints a new biotech bil­lion­aire

Immunomedics had not really been looking for a buyout when the year began. Excited by its BLA for Trodelvy, submitted to the FDA in late 2019, executive chairman Behzad Aghazadeh started off looking for potential licensing deals and zeroed in on four potential partners, including Gilead, following January’s JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Such talks advanced throughout the year, with discussions advancing to the second round in mid-August.

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The win­dow is wide open as four more biotechs join the go-go IPO class of 2020

It’s another day of hauling cash in the biopharma world as four more IPOs priced Friday and a fifth filed its initial paperwork.

The biggest offering comes from PMV Pharma, an oncology biotech focusing on p53 mutations, which raised $211.8 million after pricing shares at $18 apiece. Prelude Therapeutics, developing PRMT5 inhibitors for rare cancers, was next with a $158 million raise, pricing shares at $19 each. Graybug Vision raised $90 million after pricing at $16 per share for its wet AMD candidates, and breast cancer biotech Greenwich Lifesciences brought up the rear with a small, $7 million raise after pricing shares at $5.75.

J&J of­fers PhI/IIa da­ta show­ing its sin­gle-dose vac­cine can stir up suf­fi­cient im­mune re­sponse

Days after J&J dosed the first participants of its Phase III ENSEMBLE trial, the pharma giant has detailed the early-stage data that gave them confidence in a single-dose regimen.

Testing two dose levels either as a single dose or in a two-dose schedule spaced by 56 days in, the scientists from Janssen, the J&J subsidiary developing its vaccine, reported that the low dose induced a similar immune response as the high dose. The interim Phase I/IIa results were posted in a preprint on medRxiv.

President Donald Trump reacts after signing an executive order following his remarks on his healthcare policies yesterday in Charlotte, North Carolina (Getty Images)

Op-ed: Will phar­ma re­al­ly pay for Trump’s lat­est law­less promise to 33 mil­lion Medicare ben­e­fi­cia­ries? Not like­ly

Sitting atop the executive branch, President Donald Trump is the ultimate authority at the FDA. He can fast track any vaccine to approval himself. If it came to that, of course.

What he can’t do is unilaterally order the legislative branch to loosen the Treasury’s coffers for $6.6 billion. Nor can he command pharmaceutical companies to pay for $200 vouchers sent to 33 million Medicare beneficiaries for prescription drugs before the election.

Pal­la­dio bags $20 mil­lion Se­ries B to top­ple a prob­lem­at­ic kid­ney dis­ease drug

Palladio Biosciences just took one step further in its quest to topple Otsuka’s Samsca with its own — it hopes safer — autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) drug.

The Pennsylvania-based biotech announced a $20 million Series B on Friday, which will fund a 10-person Phase III trial of its vasopressin V2 receptor agonist, lixivaptan. CEO Alex Martin expects to read out data in the first half of next year, then launch straight into a larger pivotal Phase III study with about 1,200 participants.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo (AP Images)

An­drew Cuo­mo says New York will un­der­take its own vac­cine re­view process, and wouldn’t rec­om­mend trust­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment

The concerns keep mounting over President Donald Trump’s politicization of the FDA and other federal agencies guiding the development of a safe and effective vaccine. And today, the telegenic New York governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to introduce even more politics into the matter — latest in an ongoing series of incidents that have cast the proudly independent FDA in starkly political terms.

During his daily press conference Cuomo said that the state will review any coronavirus vaccines approved by the federal government, citing a lack of trust in the Trump administration. The announcement comes one day after Trump accused the FDA of making an “extremely political” move in proposing stricter vaccine guidance.

David Berry (Flagship)

Flag­ship's next big tech­no­log­i­cal bet? The cloud

Earlier this month, Flagship announced their big bet on the software half the industry is talking about, launching the AI and machine learning startup. Now, they and a couple other investors are gambling $100 million on a software that much of the public generally thinks of as a cool, IT afterthought: cloud computing.

The idea, says founder and Flagship partner David Berry, is one of scale: The sheer magnitude of biological data that you can store on cloud technology is unprecedented. And that size, when leveraged properly, can allow you to ask questions and form insights that are similarly unprecedented.

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