Less than two years after a pair of Gates Foundation vets — Boris Nikolic and Julie Sunderland — got started with their first venture fund at Biomatics focused on the intersection of healthcare and technology, they’re back with their second fund.
And this time they’re going deeper.
While the first fund delivered $250 million that was used to back the neuro teams at Denali, BlackThorn Therapeutics, along with Grail and other high-profile tech ventures grabbing headlines in the industry, this second fund has upped the ante to $300 million. That fast growth underscores the favorable view their investors have in this sector, as well as the go-go atmosphere in new company creation that has grabbed the world’s attention in 2018.
The initial experience whet their appetite for “breakthrough science and technology,” says Sunderland. “We are pursuing a similar thesis with our next fund.”
Biomatics is also expanding the small team along with its cache of cash. Errik Anderson — a right-hand man to Tillman Gerngross at Adimab, where he was COO and co-founder — is coming on board in Boston. And another Gates Foundation vet, Mike Poole, is joining the crew after leading the foundation’s investments in Alzheimer’s, a key focus for Bill Gates. Poole had been in charge of neuro for AstraZeneca at one point, before the pharma giant scaled back most of its operations in that field.
“We have a thesis that neuro is sort of the next frontier,” she adds, explaining why Denali and BlackThorn — both in South San Francisco — stood out among the companies they’re backing. The field has been a disaster zone for a slew of large companies operating in risky fields like Alzheimer’s, but these upstarts are relying on new insights on genomics and a rigid devotion to cutting-edge science as practiced by some of the smartest people in biotech.
And that’s saying quite a lot.
“We’ve tended to move earlier,” adds Sunderland. “One of the clichés we learned really well over the last two-and-a-half years: Great people around great science is where we get to success.”
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