Peer Review, People, Venture

Peer Review: Eyeing a $350M venture fund, Nextech recruits Third Rock’s Jakob Loven for the team

Nextech Invest closed its fourth oncology venture fund in 2014 with $64 million, putting it into play at a transatlantic group of cancer drug developers. But this time around, they’re going for $350 million for fund five, and they’ve recruited a former Third Rock alum — Jakob Loven — as a new partner to help manage that investment.

Loven was on the founding Third Rock team that helped set up Relay Pharmaceuticals, a startup focused on protein dynamics, right after he was founding scientist at Syros. And he crossed the globe to get his education: University of Cambridge, the Karolinska Institute and the Whitehead Institute for his postdoc.

Jakob Loven

“After 7 years of operation experience, I have a big appetite for science,” Loven tells me. His resume includes 15 years of academic research work, and right now, cancer research is booming like never before. With billions of dollars flowing into oncology, Nextech is unique in that it’s concentrating all of its attention and investment cash on oncology startups.

To be clear, Nextech execs didn’t tell me about their next fund. They filed that in a Form D about a month ago, and I dug it up while exploring public records. But they are already investing out of the fund, says Nextech partner Thilo Schroeder, who like any venture capital partner in his position can’t say much about it until the fund is closed.

It was Schroeder who met with Loven first. Schroeder and Third Rock’s Dan Lynch know each other from the Blueprint board, and Lynch has mentored Loven for years. So when Loven laid out his plans for the future, Lynch suggested he call Schroeder in Zurich.

The two got together in San Francisco.

Thilo Schroeder

“It was a breakfast at JPMorgan, the typical thing of course,” says Schroeder, who works closely with Nextech founder Alfred Scheidegger. There was good chemistry and a common vision, but Schroeder and the team at Nextech took a couple of months to think it through.

“It’s a very big step forming these partnerships,” says Schroeder, when you’re adding someone to the team you want around to help shape your destiny over the next 20 years. Loven joined up and moved to Zurich in August.

“With Jakob joining, we are working very hard to scale our strategy,” Schroeder adds. Later this year there will be several investments from the new fund, and Loven’s connections along with the relationships Nextech has been building over the last 19 years will all come into play as they look for the companies that are in the top 1%, with the best teams, the best science and the best prospects.

Nextech isn’t trying to replicate what Third Rock does, and it’s cut from an entirely different kind of cloth that you’ll find at many of the Boston venture shops. Loven and all the team are based in Zurich, but the bulk of their portfolio companies are in California and Cambridge, MA. They depend heavily on a star group of scientific advisers — which includes Dana-Farber’s David Livingston and Charles Sawyers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering — but they’re not single-handedly building companies and controlling everything. They work with syndicates, and they travel wherever they need to go around the world — something that some of the US venture groups out there would never do.

But Loven enjoys the idea of rolling up his sleeves and working with fledglings setting out with translational science. It’s the best of both worlds, one that marries his interest in science with a love for the entrepreneurial.

And right now, with cancer research exploding — in a good way — Nextech’s team feels that this is their time to perform.

More Peer Review

Alessandro Riva has been promoted to executive vice president of oncology therapeutics at Gilead Sciences $GILD, right before the biotech giant was granted an FDA approval for Yescarta, the CAR-T drug it acquired from the Kite buyout.

BioAegis Therapeutics has hired Mark J. DiNubile as chief medical officer. DiNubile, who spent 16 years at Merck researching infectious diseases after some clinical and teaching experience, is tasked with spearheading late-stage clinical development. The Yale grad’s history with plasma gelsolin goes way back. While a fellow at Harvard, he worked with the protein in the laboratory of Thomas Stossel, BioAegis’ founding scientist. Just this week, the company presented data showing the promise of pGSN in treating a lethal type of pneumonia at a conference, where CEO Susan Levinson said, “We are extremely excited by these data and are currently extending these studies to other infectious agents known to provide challenges to current therapy.”

→ Another three R&D officials have left biotech unicorn Moderna, the Boston Business Journal reports. The trio were Matthew Stanton, head of chemistry; Barry Ticho, who led CV and metabolic diseases; and Arian Pano, who was in charge of a clinical development at a Moderna venture for rare diseases. This comes as the company has revealed more about its mRNA projects, and follows other top rank departures earlier this year.

Santosh Vetticaden is the new chief medical and scientific officer at Depomed $DEPO. Joining the biotech after a stint as interim CEO at Insys Therapeutics, Vetticaden’s career has taken him to biotechs like Mast and pharmas like J&J. He will also help with business development.

→ Boston-based Silicon Therapeutics has recruited Sanofi’s US cancer R&D chief Christopher Winter to come over and run the R&D side of the business. Silicon has advanced new tech focused on physics-based simulations, chemistry and disease biology. This is just the latest in a long lineup of pharma investigators making their way to the biotech world.

Jeff Williams, the co-founder and CEO of the CRO Clinipace Worldwide, is taking an expanded advisory role with the company’s board and handing over his responsibilities to Jason Monteleone, who takes over as the new CEO. Williams will remain a director and will focus on strategic initiatives.

Novavax SVP, CFO and treasurer Barclay Phillips will resign from his positions this November. The biotech exec is pursuing an “expanded opportunity in the industry.”

→ Having led the financing and launch of Ingrezza, which won an FDA approval for tardive dyskinesia back in April, David-Alexandre Gros is stepping down as president, COO and interim CFO at Neurocrine. Current CEO Kevin C. Gorman has been appointed interim CFO.

Graham Miao will leave Pernix Therapeutics Holdings $PTX at the end of this year, concluding what will be a 1.5-year tenure as president and CFO.

Amber Tong contributed to this report.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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