London's 4BIO Capital unveils first close of $150M fund dedicated to advanced therapies
Orchard $ORTX. Seres $MCRB. RetroSense (acquired by Allergan). With several high profile exits under their belt, 4BIO Capital is out to find more trailblazers to back in the drug R&D world.
The VC shop has raised $50 million in the first close of what it hopes to be a $150 million second fund at the end of next year. With a focus on advanced therapies — cell and gene therapy, RNA-based therapy, targeted therapy, and the microbiome — they will devote 60% of the fund to European deals from their perch in London, while spreading the rest between Japan and the US, going into the Midwest and the South for promising ideas that might not have received as much love as those coming out of Boston.
Altogether, 8 to 12 private companies will receive investment from 4BIO Ventures II.
“With the gap in real commercial development of advanced therapies over the last 20 years, there’s a lot of programs, particularly here in Europe, that academics have been soldiering on, on a shoestring budget, pushing their ideas and thoughts to a point where they can be in the clinic within a year, particularly if they don’t suffer from the bottleneck of manufacturing,” Owen Smith, director of investment, told Endpoints News.
While many successes in advanced therapies have been limited to rare conditions, mainly of the retina, liver and bone marrow — 4BIO wants to start taking these cutting edge approaches to slightly more mainstream applications, managing partner Dmitry Kuzmin said.
“Our ambition for…Fund II is to try and bring these into what we jokingly call medium rare conditions, and basically where we have to tackle with treating tens of thousands of patients on a regular basis,” he said.
Having been at the forefront of advanced therapies investment since 2010, the team of 9 (bolstered by a 6-member advisory board) is clear about just the kind of frontiers it’s keen on tackling in each of the fields it’s watching, Kuzmin added.
That means gene therapy in the brain, as well as ways to tone down, crank up or turn off gene therapies (4BIO has previously invested in optogenetics startup RetroSense, but there’s also chemogenetics, thermogenetics, magnetogenetics, and so on).
Within cell therapy, 4BIO is looking for solid clinical and manufacturing operations that can deliver consistent and durable responses; for targeted therapy it’s most interested in protein degradation and viral applications; and “rational engineering” is the key word for their microbiome bets.
The LPs, which include the Children’s Minnesota among a group of family offices and institutional investors, have mandated a third of the fund be reserved to launch new startups.
Kuzmin envisions mostly seed-stage and Series A rounds, with the occasional Series B — and the more advanced in clinical proof-of-concept, the better. “Our ideal project is clearly a formation deal that’s already in the clinic,” he summed up.
Expect some more details soon on the companies they reckon are pushing through the medicines of tomorrow as the first two investments get under way.