Part­ner­ing with Am­gen vet Sean Harp­er, vet­er­an VC Beth Sei­den­berg un­veils a $320M fund and a unique fo­cus on…wait for it…LA

Beth Sei­den­berg is end­ing a brief qui­et spell this morn­ing, ful­fill­ing ex­pec­ta­tions that she was piec­ing to­geth­er her own biotech ven­ture fund — and adding a few big twists that might take you by sur­prise.

First, Sei­den­berg told me in a pre­view to to­day’s an­nounce­ment, she is launch­ing West­lake Vil­lage BioPart­ners with a new and very high pro­file part­ner: Sean Harp­er, who re­cent­ly stepped down from his perch as Am­gen R&D chief to take a hands-on role as a new­ly re­born ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist. Sec­ond, she plans to play a lead­ing role in turn­ing Los An­ge­les in­to the next sig­nif­i­cant biotech hub to be reck­oned with, and they have $320 mil­lion to help light the fire.

What’s dif­fer­ent from her for­mer role at Klein­er Perkins?

“A num­ber of things,” says Sei­den­berg. “First and most im­por­tant­ly I will have more cap­i­tal to de­ploy that’s ded­i­cat­ed to life sci­ences than I had at Klein­er Perkins. Sec­ond­ly, I have a great part­ner with Sean, with in­creased ca­pac­i­ty to do more in­vest­ing.”

And the third new con­sid­er­a­tion? Los An­ge­les.

“We’re sit­ing the firm in Los An­ge­les,” she says, “which gives us a unique op­por­tu­ni­ty to start and build com­pa­nies in LA.”

To be sure, West­lake isn’t re­strict­ing it­self to LA. “We’re go­ing to do in­vest­ing where the best com­pa­nies and the best en­tre­pre­neurs are,” says Sei­den­berg. But af­ter watch­ing the likes of Kite and Cougar and Am­gen spin­off Atara take flight in the area, it’s time to start build­ing a re­al hub around the tal­ent pool at Am­gen. And a ded­i­cat­ed life sci­ences firm can play a big role in that.

“If you’re build­ing an ecosys­tem,” says Sei­den­berg, “build­ing big com­pa­nies, thats how you cre­ate the mo­men­tum and den­si­ty of com­pa­nies.”

“I think life is all about tim­ing and I’m re­al­ly ready for some­thing,” says Harp­er, who’s look­ing for­ward to open­ing a new chap­ter in his own ca­reer that will oc­cu­py the next 10 to 15 years of his life.

Harp­er met Sei­den­berg at the start of his last ca­reer chap­ter, when he left Mass Gen­er­al to join Mer­ck. They con­tin­ued to work to­geth­er at Am­gen. 

“We’ve al­ways worked well to­geth­er,” says Harp­er, “al­ways had this sense that one day we would work to­geth­er again.”

And while Harp­er’s quick to ac­knowl­edge that he has a lot to learn about the nit­ty-grit­ty about ven­ture in­vest­ing, he’s hap­py that Sei­den­berg will be there to ed­u­cate him. The sci­ence? He has that part down.

The two are al­so be­ing joined by Scott Ryles, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at Klein­er Perkins, who will be West­lake’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

Talk­ing to her group of new LPs, Sei­den­berg — who’s en­joyed back­ing some key cell ther­a­py com­pa­nies — hit hard on the no­tion that we’ve en­tered the “gold­en age” of biotech.

“I’ve nev­er seen a bet­ter time for the pro­lif­er­a­tion of new tech­nol­o­gy,” she says. The in­vestors were al­so at­tract­ed to an ex­ec­u­tive with a track record for help­ing in­cu­bate and grow com­pa­nies that reached liq­uid­i­ty on av­er­age af­ter about four years.

I asked Sei­den­berg about her biggest chal­lenge, but she prefers to talk about op­por­tu­ni­ties right now.

“It’s more look­ing at it as what the op­por­tu­ni­ty is here,” she says. “The big op­por­tu­ni­ty and dif­fer­en­tia­tor is re­al­ly Sean and me.”

It’s not the mon­ey they have to in­vest, you see. At $320 mil­lion, West­lake will have a shot at in­vest­ing in about 15 biotech com­pa­nies — fair­ly stan­dard in the field. But at a time mon­ey is pour­ing in­to biotech from all sides, there’s no short­age of cash out there for ex­pe­ri­enced teams with good sci­ence. But these are two in­di­vid­u­als who are in­stant­ly rec­og­niz­able in their com­mu­ni­ty of in­vestors, and that makes them play­ers to reck­on with from day one.

In fact, Sei­den­berg ac­knowl­edged that they’ve al­ready done a cou­ple of deals. But that news will have to wait awhile longer.


Im­age: Beth Sei­den­berg and Sean Harp­er. WEST­LAKE VIL­LAGE BIOPART­NERS

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb is once again join­ing a team that en­joyed good times at the FDA un­der his high-en­er­gy stint at the helm

Right after jumping on Michael Milken’s FasterCures board on Monday, the newly departed FDA commissioner is back today with news about another life sciences board post that gives him a ringside chair to cheer on a lead player in the real-world evidence movement — one with very close ties to the FDA.

Aetion is reporting this morning that Gottlieb is joining their board, a group that includes Mohamad Makhzoumi, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates, where Gottlieb returned after stepping out of his role at the FDA 2 years after he started.

Gottlieb — one of the best connected execs in biopharma — knows this company well. As head of FDA he championed the use of real-world evidence to help guide drug developers and the agency in gaining greater efficiencies, which helped set up Aetion as a high-profile player in the game.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

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The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA.