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.

Dave Barrett, Brian Chee, Amir Nashat, Amy Schulman. Polaris

Bob Langer's first port of call — Po­laris Part­ners — maps $400M for ninth fund

Health and tech ven­ture group Po­laris Part­ners, which counts Alec­tor, Al­ny­lam and Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine as part of its port­fo­lio, is set­ting up its ninth fund, rough­ly two years af­ter it closed Po­laris VI­II with $435 mil­lion in the bank, sur­pass­ing its tar­get by $35 mil­lion.

The Boston-based firm, in an SEC fil­ing, said it in­tends to raise $400 mil­lion for the fund. Po­laris — which rou­tine­ly backs com­pa­nies mold­ed out of the work done in the lab of pro­lif­ic sci­en­tist Bob Langer of MIT  — typ­i­cal­ly in­vests ear­ly, and sticks around till com­pa­nies are in the green. Like its peers at Flag­ship and Third Rock, Po­laris is all about cham­pi­oning the lo­cal biotech scene with a steady flow of start­up cash.

John Chiminski, Catalent CEO - File Photo

'It's a growth play': Catal­ent ac­quires Bris­tol-My­er­s' Eu­ro­pean launch pad, ex­pand­ing glob­al CD­MO ops

Catalent is staying on the growth track.

Just two months after committing $1.2 billion to pick up Paragon and take a deep dive into the sizzling hot gene therapy manufacturing sector, the CDMO is bouncing right back with a deal to buy out Bristol-Myers’ central launchpad for new therapies in Europe, acquiring a complex in Anagni, Italy, southwest of Rome, that will significantly expand its capacity on the continent.

There are no terms being offered, but this is no small deal. The Anagni campus employs some 700 staffers, and Catalent is planning to go right in — once the deal closes late this year — with a blueprint to build up the operations further as they expand on oral solid, biologics, and sterile product manufacturing and packaging.

This is an uncommon deal, Catalent CEO John Chiminski tells me. But it offers a shortcut for rapid growth that cuts years out of developing a green fields project. That’s time Catalent doesn’t have as the industry undergoes unprecedented expansion around the world.

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Partners Innovation Fund

David de Graaf now has his $28.5M launch round in place, build­ing a coen­zyme A plat­form in his lat­est start­up

Long­time biotech ex­ec David de Graaf has the cash he needs to set up the pre­clin­i­cal foun­da­tion for his coen­zyme A me­tab­o­lism com­pa­ny Comet. A few high-pro­file in­vestors joined the ven­ture syn­di­cate to sup­ply Comet with $28.5 mil­lion in launch mon­ey — enough to get it two years in­to the plat­form-build­ing game, with­in knock­ing dis­tance of the clin­ic.

Canaan jumped in along­side ex­ist­ing in­vestor Sofinno­va Part­ners to co-lead the round, with par­tic­i­pa­tion by ex­ist­ing in­vestor INKEF Cap­i­tal and new in­vestor BioIn­no­va­tion Cap­i­tal.

In­vestor day prep at Mer­ck in­cludes a new strat­e­gy to pick up the pace on M&A — re­port

Mer­ck’s re­cent deals to buy up two bolt-on biotechs — Ti­los and Pelo­ton — weren’t an aber­ra­tion. In­stead, both ac­qui­si­tions mark a new strat­e­gy to beef up its dom­i­nant can­cer drug op­er­a­tions cen­tered on Keytru­da while look­ing to ad­dress grow­ing con­cerns that too many of its eggs are in the one I/O bas­ket for their PD-1 pro­gram. And Mer­ck is go­ing af­ter more small- and mid-sized buy­outs to calm those fears.

The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

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Right back at you, Pfiz­er: BeiGene and a Pfiz­er spin­out launch a new­co to de­vel­op a MEK/BRAF in­hibitor that could ri­val $11.4B com­bo

A day af­ter Pfiz­er bought Ar­ray and its ap­proved can­cer com­bo, BeiGene and Pfiz­er spin­out Spring­Works have part­nered in launch­ing a new biotech that has an eye on the very same mar­ket the phar­ma gi­ant just paid bil­lions for. And they’re plan­ning on us­ing an ex-Pfiz­er drug to do it.

In a nut­shell, Chi­na’s BeiGene is toss­ing in a pre­clin­i­cal BRAF in­hibitor — BGB-3245, which cov­ers both V600 and non-V600 BRAF mu­ta­tions — for a big stake in a new, joint­ly con­trolled biotech called Map­Kure with Bain-backed Spring­Works.

Step­ping on Roche's toes, Mer­ck cuts in­to SCLC niche with third-line Keytru­da OK

In the in­creas­ing­ly crowd­ed check­point race, small cell lung can­cer has been a rare area where Roche, a sec­ond run­ner-up, has a lead over the en­trenched lead­ers Mer­ck and Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb. But Mer­ck is fi­nal­ly mak­ing some head­way in that di­rec­tion with the lat­est ap­proval for its PD-1 star.

The lat­est green light en­dors­es Keytru­da in the third-line treat­ment of metasta­t­ic SCLC, where it would be giv­en to pa­tients whose dis­ease ei­ther don’t re­spond to or re­lapse af­ter chemother­a­py, which would have fol­lowed at least one pri­or line of ther­a­py.

Sanofi aligns it­self with Google to stream­line drug de­vel­op­ment

Tech­nol­o­gy is bleed­ing in­to health­care, and big phar­ma is rid­ing the wave. Sanofi $SNY ap­point­ed its first chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer this Feb­ru­ary, fol­low­ing the foot­steps of its peers. By May, the French drug­mak­er and some of its big phar­ma com­pa­tri­ots joined forces with Google par­ent Al­pha­bet’s Ver­i­ly unit to aug­ment clin­i­cal tri­al re­search. On Tues­day, the Parisian com­pa­ny tied up with Google to ac­cess its cloud com­put­ing and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence tech to spur the de­vel­op­ment of new ther­a­pies.

Af­ter watch­ing its share price soar on a Bloomberg re­port and heat­ed ru­mors, Bio­haven stock takes a bil­lion-dol­lar bath

Back in April, Biohaven Pharmaceutical became one hot biotech stock $BHVN based on a report in Bloomberg that some “potential bidders” had been kicking the tires at the biotech, which has a lead drug for migraines. Then the rumor mill really started to smoke when execs canceled a presentation at an investor conference a little more than a week ago.

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