Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Cap­i­tal talks a lot about con­ti­nu­ity.

Rafaèle Tord­j­man had spot­light­ed that con­cept ever since she start­ed build­ing the firm in 2018, promis­ing to go the ex­tra mile(s) with biotech en­tre­pre­neurs while push­ing them to reach pa­tients faster.

Co­in­ci­den­tal­ly, the lack of con­ti­nu­ity was one of the sore spots list­ed in a re­port about the Eu­ro­pean health­care sec­tor pub­lished that same year by the Eu­ro­pean In­vest­ment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, along­side the Amer­i­can pen­sion fund Teacher Re­tire­ment Sys­tem of Texas and Sin­ga­pore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 mil­lion (€534 mil­lion). As pre­vi­ous­ly re­port­ed, Sanofi had chimed in €50 mil­lion, mark­ing its first in­vest­ment in a French life sci­ences fund.

The close ex­ceed­ed Jeito’s orig­i­nal goal of €500 mil­lion.

Hav­ing spent years at the top-tier French VC firm Sofinno­va, Tord­j­man craft­ed her strat­e­gy to stand out from the crowd by hav­ing her port­fo­lio com­pa­nies’ backs every step of the way. In­stead of hav­ing one fund for ear­ly-stage star­tups and an­oth­er for growth, Jeito’s funds are de­signed to pour mon­ey and re­fill as need­ed, no mat­ter what stage the com­pa­ny is at — even all the way to an IPO and be­yond.

Tord­j­man is ready to in­vest as much as $100 mil­lion in­to a giv­en com­pa­ny, al­though by na­ture of her strat­e­gy of build­ing a di­verse port­fo­lio, she reck­ons some would ex­it ear­li­er than oth­ers, al­low­ing room for 12 to 15 bets in Fund I.

“We will in­vest big mon­ey in some of them, but not all of them,” she said.

Jeito is not picky about the ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas. So far, it has in­vest­ed in five Eu­rope-based com­pa­nies with a glob­al vi­sion, in­clud­ing French-based Spar­ingVi­sion and In­noSkel, the for­mer de­vel­op­ing new gene ther­a­pies for the eye and the lat­ter fo­cus­ing on rare skele­tal dis­or­ders; Dutch biotech Neo­gene Ther­a­peu­tics, co-found­ed by Ton Schu­mach­er on a quest to cre­ate cell ther­a­pies for sol­id tu­mors; UK-based Pul­mo­cide, spe­cial­iz­ing in se­vere res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­eases; and Swiss French Alen­tis Ther­a­peu­tics, striv­ing for treat­ments in fi­bro­sis and re­lat­ed can­cers.

The em­pha­sis on di­ver­si­ty is al­so man­i­fest­ed in the team, which is heav­i­ly dom­i­nat­ed by women.

Tord­j­man, founder and chair­woman of the 11-year-old Women In­no­vat­ing To­geth­er in Health­care group, co-man­ages the fund out of the Paris of­fice along­side J&J vet Sabine Dandigu­ian, while Rachel Mears, who led busi­ness strat­e­gy and op­er­a­tions at For­est Lab be­fore it be­came Al­ler­gan, works in New York. Four out of the six op­er­a­tional in­vestors are women, bring­ing ex­per­tise in re­pro­duc­tive health, G pro­tein cou­pled re­cep­tors, trans­ac­tions and al­liance man­age­ment, and so on.

Bring­ing their skill sets of ex­pe­ri­ence to­geth­er to work to­geth­er on deals is cru­cial to mak­ing her strat­e­gy work.

“For the price of one, you get sev­er­al of us,” Tord­j­man joked.

All of that gives Jeito plen­ty of fu­el to blaze a path that, while well-trod­den in the US, is still quite new in Eu­rope. Along the way, she has en­coun­tered her share of skep­ti­cism, al­though she be­lieved the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic may have opened in­vestors’ minds.

“It meant at least (for) some in­vestors, like French in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, how much it’s im­por­tant to take risk — some type of risk,” she said. “And par­tic­u­lar­ly with our team that is con­trol — I mean not con­trol­ling the risk, but mit­i­gat­ing the risks, be­cause of our ex­pe­ri­ence in phar­ma, biotech and oth­ers, across the val­ue chain.”

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

So — that pig-to-hu­man trans­plant; Po­ten­tial di­a­betes cure reach­es pa­tient; Ac­cused MIT sci­en­tist lash­es back; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

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NYU surgeon transplants an engineered pig kidney into the outside of a brain-dead patient (Joe Carrotta/NYU Langone Health)

No, sci­en­tists are not any clos­er to pig-to-hu­man trans­plants than they were last week

Steve Holtzman was awoken by a 1 a.m. call from a doctor at Duke University asking if he could put some pigs on a plane and fly them from Ohio to North Carolina that day. A motorcyclist had gotten into a horrific crash, the doctor explained. He believed the pigs’ livers, sutured onto the patient’s skin like an external filter, might be able to tide the young man over until a donor liver became available.

UP­DAT­ED: Agenus calls out FDA for play­ing fa­vorites with Mer­ck, pulls cer­vi­cal can­cer BLA at agen­cy's re­quest

While criticizing the FDA for what may be some favoritism towards Merck, Agenus on Friday officially pulled its accelerated BLA for its anti-PD-1 inhibitor balstilimab as a potential second-line treatment for cervical cancer because of the recent full approval for Merck’s Keytruda in the same indication.

The company said the BLA, which was due for an FDA decision by Dec. 16, was withdrawn “when the window for accelerated approval of balstilimab closed,” thanks to the conversion of Keytruda’s accelerated approval to a full approval four months prior to its PDUFA date.

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How to col­lect and sub­mit RWD to win ap­proval for a new drug in­di­ca­tion: FDA spells it out in a long-await­ed guid­ance

Real-world data are messy. There can be differences in the standards used to collect different types of data, differences in terminologies and curation strategies, and even in the way data are exchanged.

While acknowledging this somewhat controlled chaos, the FDA is now explaining how biopharma companies can submit study data derived from real-world data (RWD) sources in applicable regulatory submissions, including new drug indications.

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David Livingston (Credit: Michael Sazel for CeMM)

Renowned Dana-Far­ber sci­en­tist, men­tor and bio­phar­ma ad­vi­sor David Liv­ingston has died

David Livingston, the Dana-Farber/Harvard Med scientist who helped shine a light on some of the key molecular drivers of breast and ovarian cancer, died unexpectedly last Sunday.

One of the senior leaders at Dana-Farber during his nearly half century of work there, Livingston was credited with shedding light on the genes that regulate cell growth, with insights into inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that helped lay the scientific foundation for targeted therapies and earlier detection that have transformed the field.

No­vo CEO Lars Fruer­gaard Jør­gensen on R&D risk, the deal strat­e­gy and tar­gets for gen­der di­ver­si­ty


I kicked off our European R&D summit last week with a conversation involving Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen. Novo is aiming to launch a new era of obesity management with a new approval for semaglutide. And Jørgensen had a lot to say about what comes next in R&D, how they manage risk and gender diversity targets at the trendsetting European pharma giant.

John Carroll: I’m here with Lars Jørgensen, the CEO of Novo Nordisk. Lars, it’s been a really interesting year so far with Novo Nordisk, right? You’ve projected a new era of growing sales. You’ve been able to expand on the GLP-1 franchise that was already well established in diabetes now going into obesity. And I think a tremendous number of people are really interested in how that’s working out. You have forecast a growing amount of sales. We don’t know specifically how that might play out. I know a lot of the analysts have different ideas, how those numbers might play out, but that we are in fact embarking on a new era for Novo Nordisk in terms of what the company’s capable of doing and what it’s able to do and what it wants to do. And I wanted to start off by asking you about obesity in particular. Semaglutide has been approved in the United States for obesity. It’s an area of R&D that’s been very troubled for decades. There have been weight loss drugs that have come along. They’ve attracted a lot of attention, but they haven’t actually ever gained traction in the market. My first question is what’s different this time about obesity? What is different about this drug and why do you expect it to work now whereas previous drugs haven’t?

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René Russo, Xilio CEO (Alicia Petitti for Xilio)

Xilio Ther­a­peu­tics goes pub­lic as bio­phar­ma IPOs rum­ble for­ward in Q4

It’s been a busy fall on Wall Street — and this week, we’ve got another biotech going public after Ventyx yesterday.

Massachusetts solid-tumor biotech Xilio Therapeutics made its public debut today, joining 149 other biotechs that have gone public so far this year.

Back on October 1st, Xilio filed its S-1 with the SEC to make its IPO debut for $100 million — the next step in financing after completing a $95 million Series C back in February.

Luc Boblet, Egle Therapeutics CEO

A new Treg play­er emerges with $46M and back­ing from Take­da

In recent years, the chorus of biotechs and Big Pharma backers targeting regulatory T cells — also known as “Tregs” — for cancer and autoimmune diseases has only grown louder.

The newest voice is from Egle Therapeutics, which sang out a $46.4 million Series A round on Friday led by LSP and Bpifrance through their InnoBio 2 fund. Takeda’s venture arm also chipped in, about a year after the pharma struck a research pact with the Paris-based upstart.

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