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.’”

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

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Usama Malik

Ex-Im­munomedics CFO charged with in­sid­er trad­ing, faces up to 20 years in prison af­ter al­leged­ly tip­ping off girl­friend and rel­a­tives of a PhI­II suc­cess

The former CFO of Immunomedics, who helped steer the company to its $21 billion buyout by Gilead last year, has been charged with insider trading, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Usama Malik tipped off his then-girlfriend and four others that a Phase III study for Trodelvy would be stopped early four days before Immunomedics publicly announced the result in April 2020, DoJ alleged in its complaint. The individuals then purchased Immunomedics shares, selling them after the news broke and Immunomedics’ stock price doubled.

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Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

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Radek Spisek, Sotio CEO (Cellestia)

A qui­et Czech biotech bags $315M to dri­ve its blos­som­ing can­cer pipeline through the clin­ic

In the rather insular world of biotech, most innovation inevitably comes from a cluster of R&D hubs — Cambridge, San Francisco, etc. But sometimes success stories sprout from rocky soil, which is most certainly the case with Prague-based Sotio Biotech and its suddenly jam-packed pipeline of cancer drugs.

After years in quiet development, Sotio now has $315 million in new funds to play with from parent company PPF Group, an investment group founded in the Czech Republic, as the biotech looks to advance its growing pipeline through early- and mid-stage trials.

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In­cor­po­rat­ing Ex­ter­nal Da­ta in­to Clin­i­cal Tri­als: Com­par­ing Dig­i­tal Twins to Ex­ter­nal Con­trol Arms

Most drug development professionals are familiar with the nerve-racking wait for the read-out of a large trial. If it’s negative, is the investigational therapy ineffective? Or could the failure result from an unforeseen flaw in the design or execution of the protocol, rather than a lack of efficacy? The team could spend weeks analyzing data, but a definitive answer may be elusive due to insufficient power for such analyses in the already completed trial. These problems are only made worse if the trial had lower enrollment, or higher dropout than expected due to an unanticipated event like COVID-19. And if a trial is negative, the next one is likely to be larger and more costly — if it happens at all.

Ab­b­Vie tacks on a new warn­ing to Rin­voq la­bel as safe­ty frets crimp JAK class

The safety problems that continue to plague the JAK class as new data highlight some severe side effects are casting a large shadow over AbbVie’s Rinvoq.

As a result of a recent readout highlighting major adverse cardiac events (MACE), malignancy, mortality and thrombosis with Xeljanz a couple of months ago, AbbVie put out a notice late Friday afternoon that it is adding the new class risks to its label for their rival drug.

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Biospec­i­men M&A: Dis­cov­ery ac­quires Al­bert Li's he­pa­to­cyte project; PhI­II tri­al on Bay­er's Nube­qa reached pri­ma­ry end­point

Discovery Life Sciences has acquired what claims to be the Maryland-based host of the world’s largest hepatocyte inventory, known as IVAL, to help researchers select more effective and safer drug candidates in the future.

The combined companies will now serve a wider range of drug research and development scientists, according to Albert Li, who founded IVAL in 2004 and is set to join the Discovery leadership team as the CSO of pharmacology and toxicology.

Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

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