After building up its tech talent with the recruitment of Silicon Valley’s favorite CSO Vikram Bajaj, Foresite Capital has closed $668 million for its fourth and largest fund — and it’s setting aside a decent chunk of that cash for companies combining data science with life sciences.
The focus of the fund should come as no surprise, considering Foresite’s recent investments and its move to recruit Bajaj last year. Bajaj came to Foresite from the Illumina spinout Grail, which is best known for raising $1 billion in less than two years (and for its C suite of ex-Googlers). He also is a co-founder and former CSO for Google’s life science startup Verily.
When Bajaj joined in November, he told me he was particularly interested in the companies that combine data science and human biology, which is sort of his domain. On top of his Verily roots, Bajaj also led laboratory and data science teams at Grail. And as a former academic researcher, Bajaj and his collaborators have developed nanotech and other tools that were later commercialized by startups.
Bajaj said personalized medicine — with the help of data science — is only getting started. He thinks it’s a good time to enter this space as an investor, with cash to move the right technologies forward.
“I think we’re poised for massive change as sequencing costs go down and medicine becomes more precise as a result of this explosion of data,” Bajaj said.
Foresite, which was founded in 2011, now has $2 billion in assets under management, and it ranked pretty high in our most recent list of 100 top VCs in biotech. Coming in at number 12, Foresite did 23 deals in 2017. That includes chipping in $15 million for Grail’s syndicate and almost $17 million for Color Genomics. And in Foresite’s portfolio are the likes of 10x Genomics, Intarcia Therapeutics, and Aerie Pharmaceuticals.
Foresite has been working to beef up its data science and machine learning expertise in recent years, the company said. At the same time as Bajaj’s recruitment, Foresite also hired Phil Kallos, a new director of engineering. A company spokesperson said Foresite had made “several” personnel additions to fuel their efforts in analytics and machine learning to “accelerate the company’s research and modeling efforts.”
Foresite’s founder and CEO Jim Tananbaum says they’re building expertise that will be critical in making investment decisions down the road.
“We not only provide capital, but also a multidisciplinary team of scientists, clinicians, analysts and engineers who collaborate to seek the best data-driven decisions. The ability to ingest and derive meaning from massive amounts of complex information is a critical success factor in healthcare investing,” Tananbaum said in a statement. “We’re pleased by the confidence and enthusiasm our Fund IV investors have demonstrated in the Foresite Capital team, as well as the progress made by our rapidly developing portfolio.”
Image: Vikram Bajaj. Elisabeth Fall, FallFoto via Foresite
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