Startups, Venture Capital

Flagship adds $618M in new funds to fuel startup mission

More money is streaming into the coffers of Flagship Pioneering, one of the most prominent blank-slate venture funds in biotech. The VC group has closed $618 million in new funds, which is the biggest chunk of money it’s secured in almost two decades.

The cash comes from both existing investors and new ones following Flagship’s productive year. In 2017, the venture group and its incubator VentureLabs spun out six new companies, its portfolio startups raised $835 million in equity financing, and saw two IPOs: Denali Therapeutics $DNLI and Quanterix $QTRX. These bring Flagship’s total IPOs to 14 in four years.

Noubar Afeyan

One year ago, Flagship added $285 million to its total haul, creating a “Special Opportunities Fund” to operate alongside its $585 million Fund V (closed in 2015). The total capital raised by Flagship now exceeds $2.3 billion since its founding in 2000.

“For nearly two decades, Flagship has originated impactful, first- and best-in-class companies that create entirely new categories in human health and sustainability,” said founder and CEO Noubar Afeyan in a statement. “This new capital will fuel our unique model, which combines in a single institution scientific foresight and creativity, risk mitigation, systematic invention, professional entrepreneuring, executive leadership, professional capital management, and a vast network of expertise.”

Noubar says Flagship currently has 35 ventures in its portfolio, including mRNA pioneer Moderna Therapeutics, microbiome company Seres Therapeutics, and red blood cell-based company Rubius Therapeutics.

The new infusion of cash comes at a time when big money is streaming into VC funds. Jonathan Norris, a managing director of Silicon Valley Bank’s healthcare practice, recently told me he’s seeing a trend of compressed fundraising cycles both at biotech ventures and at VC firms.

“It used to be three or four years between fundraising cycles, and now it’s only two to three years,” Norris said.

Case-in-point, he said, was OrbiMed’s $950 million fund closed in late 2015 and followed rapidly by its $551 million Asia-focused fund.

Norris said this kind of rapid fundraising is a sign that VCs are also rapidly deploying cash. And that’s reflected in the quarterly VC data we’re seeing biotechs raise this year.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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