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

Am­gen lays off about 300 work­ers, cit­ing 'in­dus­try head­wind­s'

Amgen has laid off about 300 employees, a company spokesperson confirmed to Endpoints News via email Sunday night.

Employees posted to LinkedIn in recent days about layoffs hitting Amgen last week. The Thousand Oaks, CA-based biopharma, which employs about 24,000 people, said the reduction “mainly” impacted US-based workers on its commercial team.

Drug developers of all sizes, including small upstarts and pharma giants, have let employees go in recent months as the biopharma market drags through a quarters-long winter doldrum.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Am­gen launch­es the first US Hu­mi­ra biosim­i­lar at two dif­fer­ent list prices

The bizarre dynamics of the US prescription drug market were on full display once again this morning as Amgen announced that it would launch the first US biosimilar for Humira, the best-selling drug of all time, at two completely different list prices.

One price for Amgen’s Amjevita (adalimumab-atto) will be 55% below the current Humira list price, which is about $84,000 per year, and another at a list price 5% below the current Humira list price, but presumably (pharma companies don’t disclose rebates) with high rebates to attract PBMs and payers.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 157,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Dirk Thye, Quince Therapeutics CEO

Af­ter piv­ot­ing from Alzheimer's to bone con­di­tions, biotech piv­ots again — and halves its head­count

When troubled public biotech Cortexyme bought a private startup named Novosteo and handed the keys to its executive team, the company — which changed its name to Quince Therapeutics — said it would shift its focus from an unorthodox Alzheimer’s approach to Novosteo’s bone-targeting drug platform.

Less than a year later, Quince is pivoting again.

The biotech has decided to out-license its bone-targeting drug platform and its lead drug, NOV004, and instead look for clinical-stage programs to in-license or acquire, according to a press release.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 157,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Credit: Shutterstock

New York City in­vests $20M in­to biotech 'in­no­va­tion space' at the Brook­lyn Navy Yard

New York City is investing $20 million in biotech this year in the form of a 50,000-square-foot “innovation space” at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, complete with offices, research laboratories and events and programming space to grow biotech startups and companies.

Mayor Eric Adams said during his State of The City Address last Thursday that there will be an “emphasis” on making more opportunities for women and people of color to further diversify the industry. The City first reported the news.

Boehringer In­gel­heim touts pre­ven­tion re­sults in rarest form of pso­ri­a­sis

Boehringer Ingelheim uncorked some positive results suggesting that Spevigo can help prevent flare-ups in patients with a severe form of psoriasis, months after the drug was approved to treat existing flares.

Spevigo, an IL-36R antibody also known as spesolimab, met its primary and a key secondary endpoint in the Phase IIb EFFISAYIL 2 trial in patients with generalized pustular psoriasis (GPP), Boehringer announced on Monday. While the company is keeping the hard numbers under wraps until later this year, it said in a news release that it anticipates sharing the results with regulators.

As­traZeneca, No­vo Nordisk and Sanofi score 340B-re­lat­ed ap­peals court win over HHS

AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi won an appeals court win on Monday, as the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that the companies cannot be forced to provide 340B-discounted drugs purchased by hospitals from an unlimited number of community and specialty pharmacies.

“Legal duties do not spring from silence,” the decision says as the court makes clear that the federal government’s interpretation of the “supposed requirement” that the 340B program compels drugmakers to supply their discounted drugs to an unlimited number of contract pharmacies is not correct, noting:

Ap­peals court toss­es J&J's con­tro­ver­sial 'Texas two-step' bank­rupt­cy case

A US appeals court has ruled against Johnson & Johnson’s use of bankruptcy to deal with mounting talc lawsuits, deciding that doing so would “create a legal blind spot.”

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a previous bankruptcy court decision on Monday, calling for the dismissal of a Chapter 11 filing by J&J’s subsidiary LTL Management.

Faced with more than 38,000 lawsuits alleging its talc-based products caused cancer, J&J spun its talc liabilities into a separate company called LTL Management back in October 2021 and filed for bankruptcy, a controversial move colloquially referred to as a “Texas two-step” bankruptcy. Claimants argued that the strategy is a misuse of the US bankruptcy code — and on Monday, a panel of judges agreed.

Troy Tazbaz, FDA's newly-named director of the Digital Health Center of Excellence (Oracle via YouTube)

Or­a­cle ex­ec­u­tive Troy Tazbaz named new FDA di­rec­tor of dig­i­tal health

The FDA has found a brand new director of the Digital Health Center of Excellence in Troy Tazbaz, a former senior vice president at Oracle.

According to Tazbaz’s LinkedIn, he took a five-month break after leaving an 11-year career at Oracle before joining the FDA in January. Stat News first reported the hire. Tazbaz also said on his LinkedIn that he biked all the way from Chesapeake Bay to the San Francisco Bay over 58 days during his career break.

Chad Mirkin, Flashpoint co-founder

‘The field is at a flash­point’: New Chad Mirkin-found­ed biotech hopes to make more ef­fec­tive can­cer vac­cines

Following the success of the mRNA Covid vaccines, cancer vaccines are seeing renewed interest after years of middling results. But a group of researchers suggests that more attention needs to be paid not to what goes into those vaccines, but how the parts are put together.

In a recent paper published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, researchers led by Northwestern University’s Chad Mirkin describe how the placement of different antigens in a cancer vaccine impacts its efficacy. The paper builds on past work done by Mirkin’s lab that suggests the structure, or how the parts of a vaccine are arranged, impact a vaccine’s efficacy, not just its components.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 157,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.