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.
“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.
“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.
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Amber Tong contributed to this report.