Peter Kolchinsky and Raj Shah (file photo)

Pe­ter Kolchin­sky and Raj Shah's RA Cap­i­tal has $461M more to play with, af­ter 'rapid' in­vest­ment in the last 15 months

Just over 15 months af­ter launch­ing its first ven­ture fund, RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment is ready for more. And this time the firm is bring­ing an even big­ger load of cash to the ta­ble.

An­nounc­ing the close of its Nexus II fund on Wednes­day, RA said it raised $461 mil­lion for in­vest­ments in pri­vate com­pa­nies across the biotech in­dus­try. The first ven­ture fund, which raised $300 mil­lion, has churned through rough­ly 80% of its cap­i­tal al­ready, a pace that man­ag­ing part­ner Raj Shah called un­usu­al­ly quick.

“Ob­vi­ous­ly there were some op­por­tu­ni­ties that oc­curred be­cause of Covid-19, and then there were just many across a va­ri­ety of ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas that ul­ti­mate­ly were com­pelling to us,” Shah told End­points News. “Based on our deal flow and what we saw, we end­ed up in­vest­ing at a pace that was more rapid than I think is typ­i­cal and than what we had in­tend­ed orig­i­nal­ly.”

The new fund will large­ly build off the first, and though the cash pool is still sep­a­rate from RA’s main fund, the fo­cus will re­main in the life sci­ences are­na, Shah said. Nexus I saw in­vest­ment across 18 dis­tinct ar­eas and fund­ed 59 com­pa­nies, 15 of which have gone pub­lic or have been ac­quired.

RA’s main fund in­vests not on­ly in pri­vate com­pa­nies but al­so par­tic­i­pates in fol­low-on in­vest­ments as well as new­ly-pub­lic com­pa­nies, Shah said.

Shah doesn’t ex­pect the Nexus II mon­ey to be in­vest­ed at a sim­i­lar­ly quick pace, though he did say the plan is for Nexus II to be a 10-year fund. That way, RA can stay flex­i­ble with what­ev­er in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties might come about.

Josh Resnick

Orig­i­nal­ly found­ed by Shah and Pe­ter Kolchin­sky, RA has built up a team of more than 90 em­ploy­ees in­clud­ing over 30 sci­en­tists and re­searchers over the years who pore over all the da­ta and cat­a­log emerg­ing trends, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Josh Resnick said. Every life sci­ences VC has its own ap­proach to in­vest­ing, but the size of that di­vi­sion — called TechAt­las — is fair­ly atyp­i­cal with­in the in­dus­try and al­lows the firm to keep up with all the in­no­va­tion that’s go­ing on in the field right now.

“That gives us a ready source of sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly map­ping and cat­e­go­riz­ing it,” Resnick said. “What that al­lows us to do re­al­ly is put any in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ty quick­ly in­to its con­text so that, rather than rush­ing to try to un­der­stand some­thing from first prin­ci­ples, we are ready to re­act to most op­por­tu­ni­ties, frankly, be­cause we know where they fit in­to the mar­ket and in­to a com­pet­i­tive space.”

At the end of the day, it’s still most­ly about the mon­ey. RA nar­rows their choic­es down to the tech­nolo­gies and R&D that it feels can be the most “dis­rup­tive,” Shah said, with the po­ten­tial of be­com­ing the stan­dard of care with­in five to 10 years.

Though RA isn’t di­vulging specifics about what it’s look­ing at right now, Resnick added they nev­er say no out­right to any­thing.

“We’re lucky enough to have the ca­pa­bil­i­ties to be some­what abreast of pret­ty much every ther­a­peu­tic area and so re­spond to things on their mer­its,” Resnick said. “Ob­vi­ous­ly there will be some that are more in­vestable than oth­ers, but there’s no area that’s closed off and there’s no area where we say, ‘We’re go­ing to do X amount in this year.’”

Im­ple­ment­ing re­silience in the clin­i­cal tri­al sup­ply chain

Since January 2020, the clinical trials ecosystem has quickly evolved to manage roadblocks impeding clinical trial integrity, and patient care and safety amid a global pandemic. Closed borders, reduced air traffic and delayed or canceled flights disrupted global distribution, revealing how flexible logistics and supply chains can secure the timely delivery of clinical drug products and therapies to sites and patients.

In fi­nal days at Mer­ck, Roger Perl­mut­ter bets big on a lit­tle-known Covid-19 treat­ment

Roger Perlmutter is spending his last days at Merck, well, spending.

Two weeks after snapping up the antibody-drug conjugate biotech VelosBio for $2.75 billion, Merck announced today that it had purchased OncoImmune and its experimental Covid-19 drug for $425 million. The drug, known as CD24Fc, appeared to reduce the risk of respiratory failure or death in severe Covid-19 patients by 50% in a 203-person Phase III trial, OncoImmune said in September.

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Pascal Soriot (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: As­traZeneca, Ox­ford on the de­fen­sive as skep­tics dis­miss 70% av­er­age ef­fi­ca­cy for Covid-19 vac­cine

On the third straight Monday that the world wakes up to positive vaccine news, AstraZeneca and Oxford are declaring a new Phase III milestone in the fight against the pandemic. Not everyone is convinced they will play a big part, though.

With an average efficacy of 70%, the headline number struck analysts as less impressive than the 95% and 94.5% protection that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have boasted in the past two weeks, respectively. But the British partners say they have several other bright spots going for their candidate. One of the two dosing regimens tested in Phase III showed a better profile, bringing efficacy up to 90%; the adenovirus vector-based vaccine requires minimal refrigeration, which may mean easier distribution; and AstraZeneca has pledged to sell it at a fraction of the price that the other two vaccine developers are charging.

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Bob Nelsen (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

Bob Nelsen rais­es $800M and re­cruits a star-stud­ded board to build the 'Fox­con­n' of biotech

Bob Nelsen spent his pandemic spring in his Seattle home, talking on the phone with Luciana Borio, the scientist who used to run pandemic preparedness on the National Security Council, and fuming with her about the dire state of American manufacturing.

Companies were rushing to develop vaccines and antibodies for the new virus, but even if they succeeded, there was no immediate supply chain or infrastructure to mass-produce them in a way that could make a dent in the outbreak.

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Peter Thiel (Riccardo Savi/Sipa via AP Images)

Tech bil­lion­aire Pe­ter Thiel backs a lead­ing psy­che­del­ic drug de­vel­op­er

Right on the heels of investing in antibody drug developer AbCellera, Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel has jumped into a syndicate putting up $125 million for a company with a portfolio of psychedelic drugs in the clinic for mental health.

The C round — which includes a $32 million conversion of notes to equity — will fuel the development programs at ATAI Life Sciences, a Berlin-based biotech that has assembled a portfolio of companies with psychedelic and non-psychedilc approaches to depression, anxiety and addiction.

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Carl Hansen, AbCellera CEO (University of British Columbia)

From a pair of Air Jor­dans to a $200M-plus IPO, Carl Hansen is craft­ing an overnight R&D for­tune fu­eled by Covid-19

Back in the summer of 2019, Carl Hansen left his post as a professor at the University of British Columbia to go full time as the CEO at a low-profile antibody shop he had founded called AbCellera.

As biotech CEOs go, even after a fundraise Hansen wasn’t paid a whole heck of a lot. He ended up earning right at $250,000 for the year. His compensation package included a loan — which he later paid back — and a pair of Air Jordan tennis shoes. His newly-hired CFO, Andrew Booth, got a sweeter pay packet than that — which included his own pair of Air Jordans.

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Simeon George, SR One CEO (SR One)

Scoop: SR One crew com­pletes a com­pli­cat­ed spin­out from Glax­o­SmithK­line. And now they have a $500M fund to in­vest on their own

It’s taken close to 2 years, but Simeon George and his team at SR One have completed their spinout from GlaxoSmithKline, ending a saga as one of the longest running venture arms of Big Pharma as they go out on their own to forge the next chapter with a new and independent $500 million fund.

GSK is sticking with the spinout, this time as a minority investor — though a big one. And I’m told that the R&D group at GSK will remain involved in evaluating their new plays, helping with the scientific due diligence involved in scouting the world for new opportunities during a period of explosive growth in biotech investing.

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Vipin Suri, Catamaran Bio CSO

Cata­ma­ran Bio sails in­to the CAR-NK wa­ters with a $42M launch round

Catamaran Bio’s founding members decided to jump into the CAR-NK game last December over drinks at a trendy bar in Boston.

They were sitting around a table, discussing an MD Anderson study which provided some of the first clinical proof that natural killer (NK) cells can be reengineered to attack tumors, much like CAR-T therapies. It was a “long and lively” discussion, COO Mark Boshar recalls. And by the time it was over, they had a starting point to launch a company.

Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron CEO (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Trail­ing Eli Lil­ly by 12 days, Re­gen­eron gets the FDA OK for their Covid-19 an­ti­body cock­tail

A month and a half after becoming the experimental treatment of choice for a newly diagnosed president, Regeneron’s antibody cocktail has received emergency use authorization from the FDA. It will be used to treat non-hospitalized Covid-19 patients who are at high-risk of progressing.

Although the Rgeneron drug is not the first antibody treatment authorized by the FDA, the news comes as a significant milestone for a company and a treatment scientists have watched closely since the outbreak began.