Venture

Gates vets raise a $200M life sci fund for avant-garde genomic biotechs and digital health players

Julie Sunderland

Boris Nikolic and Julie Sunderland have been investing in razor-edge life sciences and healthcare tech for the past seven years, honing their expertise while working with Bill Gates and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Now, they’ve put the finishing touches to a $200 million fund, dubbed Biomatics Capital, which is already well down the road to making its first slate of selections. And they are out to help seed the tech revolution.

Through the past few years, Sunderland tells me, she and Nikolic have acquired a yen for breakthrough science and technology which promises to break the mold on the way diseases are treated.

That objective has led them to biotechs like Denali and BlackThorn. The first is a Bay Area biotech out to blaze a new path using genomics to guide the development of new therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. The second is taking much the same path in pursuing neurobehavioral disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and schizophrenia. And there are some more plays in the works that will continue down that path.

They are very keen to ally themselves with the best and the brightest in the business who are looking for radical progress in their respective fields.

Denali, says Sunderland, “has one of the best biotech teams we’ve seen,” citing a group led by Ryan Watts out of Genentech.

Boris Nikolic

Nikolic is a former science adviser to Gates while Sunderland had helped direct investments for the foundation. But Sunderland emphasizes that this is not a Gates-style nonprofit effort. Biomatics is designed as a thoroughly commercial venture group, mixing up very early-stage drug development with some product-oriented companies working on the tech side. AiCure, for example, is working on a smart phone application that helps patients monitor adherence to drug regimens, essentially letting the phone capture compliance and keep a record of it.

The managing partners at Biomatics have selected eight companies to work with so far after a first close back in April. Altogether, this fund will invest in 15 to 20 companies to the tune of $5 to $10 million a round, up to a total of about $20 million.

If they’re successful, says Sunderland, they hope to find more biotechs like Editas, which has been shaking up the gene editing world with new tech headed to the clinic soon. Nikolic played a big role in Editas early on and still sits on the board, she says, giving high marks to CEO Katrine Bosley as the kind of biotech exec they want to back with Biomatic.

The work is taking them into some interesting circles, including the Arch-dominated syndicate that backed Grail’s huge $900 million-plus B round.

And they’re just getting started.


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