On a mission to support 'underserved' European startups, Panakès Partners dips into the biotech sector with its latest fund
Diana Saraceni knows how to put together a VC fund. After co-founding Italy-based Panakès Partners back in 2015, the managing partner is now closing the sixth fund of her career — but this time, her firm is dipping into the biotech sector.
Panakès unveiled its second fund on Tuesday morning, with $180 million (€150 million) from a slate of investors anchored by EIF and the Fund of Funds managed by CDP Venture Capital SGR. This raise, dubbed the Purple Fund, will focus on early-stage life sciences companies in Europe and specifically Italy — areas which Panakès says are “underserved.”
“It’s been a big achievement,” said Saraceni, who previously co-founded the European VC firm 360 Capital Partners. “(It’s) the biggest life sciences-dedicated fund in Italy,” she said of the Purple Fund.
So far, Panakès has doled out almost $249 million from its last fund, raised back in 2016, to 12 portfolio companies focused mainly on medical devices, diagnostics and digital health, including UK-based Alesi Surgical and the Italian startup BetaGlue Technologies.
“There’s always a very strong therapeutic angle in everything we do, in the sense that we like to bring new therapies, new treatments, things that change the prognosis of the patient,” Saraceni told Endpoints News. “We’ve always tried to have that angle with devices and diagnostics and digital health, and now it’s going to be even stronger and more focused with the therapeutic-dedicated leg of the fund.”
The fund will remain open for the rest of the year, and if all goes well, Panakès hopes to raise just over $212 million (€180 million). With the added biotech leg, Saraceni says the firm expects to bring 15 to 18 new companies into its portfolio, with the first announcements likely coming this fall. More than 500 companies submitted funding requests in the first half of 2021, according to president Fabrizio Landi, who co-founded Panakès along with Saraceni and Alessio Beverina.
Saraceni says Panakès will be on the lookout for startups working on “some sort of breakthrough” that addresses an area of high unmet need. To support its expansion into the biotech field, the firm is planning to add three new members to its 11-person team.
The company has also tapped two industry experts to its advisory board: Fabio Pammolli, the professor of economics, finance and management science at Politecnico di Milano; and Sergio Abrignani, professor at the National Institute of Molecular Genetics (INGM) in Milan.
Why purple? The color, featured in Panakès’ logo, is “everywhere around the firm,” Saraceni said. “It’s not all the time associated to good luck, but it was with us.”