There aren’t many venture funds out there in biotech land that embrace startups looking to develop a new generation of antibiotics for the growing menace posed by drug-resistant superbugs.
So the people who manage Novo Nordisk Foundation’s $60 billion are making one.
Novo Holdings says it has set up a $165 million transAtlantic fund designed specifically to invest in early-stage biotechs laboring in one of the hardest fields in R&D. The fund will look to provide $20 million to $40 million a year for 3 to 5 years to back a portfolio of startups in Europe and the US with cold, hard cash. Their investments will range from $1 million to $15 million in 20 companies, looking for at least one new therapy in the bunch.
While superbugs pose a serious threat to the world’s population, with some estimates pointing to the march of drug resistance leading to a future where it’s even deadlier than cancer, the market still offers little encouragement for new programs. As a result there are new discussions on what the US and other governments can do to encourage research in the field of antimicrobials.
There are some initiatives here, such as the $455 million, public/private CARB-X effort to provide research grants to investigators in the field. But Novo Holdings still sees a big gap on funding for company launches. And the thin pipeline of early-stage efforts underscores the need for the money.
Here’s how Novo Holdings describes the situation:
Despite growing recognition of this threat, there is an early-stage funding gap for new treatments, specifically from lead optimization up to Phase 1 data. Challenging commercial prospects and lack of clinical evidence create difficulty in attracting capital at this stage of development. Novo Holdings is uniquely positioned to meet this major unmet need. It has a long-term investment horizon, which means that it can pursue ambitious strategies to meet this challenge. It also has the capabilities to support the development of promising therapeutic options and a successful investment track record into eight anti-infective companies, including a portfolio company containing the world’s largest anti-infective discovery group.
The plan is to focus on the 12 most dangerous strains of bacteria, as defined by the WHO.
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