Startups, Venture

Searching for a few great drugs, BridgeBio bags $135M to back a fresh slate of R&D bets

BridgeBio is all about shots on goal.

The last time I wrote a story about the company in April, CEO Neil Kumar had just established his 9th subsidiary operation to explore a small molecule therapy for transthyretin (TTR) amyloidosis. And now it’s lined up $135 million — more than it’s ever raised before — to establish up to 10 more of these R&D efforts.

Significantly, KKR came back in to co-lead the round, joined by new investor Viking Global Investors. Existing investor Perceptive Advisors came back in, alongside a slate of new investors: AIG, Aisling Capital, Cormorant Capital and Janus Funds.

Neil Kumar

Kumar is not your average cheerleading biotech CEO. He doesn’t like to tout things, “hates” the way some people jump up and down when they go over fundraising goals (yes, he did just do that), and doesn’t like to claim every new investor as a true believer that everything they do will work.

In Kumar’s world, everything emphatically will not all work. But if you make enough smart bets, playing a full table of cards, some will, and that will be plenty good enough to qualify for success.

“The key,” he tells me, “as we discussed, is trying to find early stage” assets and push capital efficiently; “see if there’s something interesting there.”

Kumar, an ex-McKinsey and former BD biotech exec, likes to think that this expanded slate of investors prefers a more low-key approach to R&D: focusing primary on early-stage and often overlooked work on genetic diseases that requires less initial capital outlay — a Moneyball model that MIT’s Andrew Lo helped create in advising Kumar while also investing in the company.

As BridgeBio matures, it’s also at a key crossroads, with more clinical work to fund as their early-stage drugs begin to test the threshold on proof-of-concept data, and beyond.

Just a few weeks ago, BridgeBio came in to help fund a Phase III study at PellePharma after the Menlo Park, CA-based biotech announced positive topline data from its Phase II trial evaluating the topical drug patidegib in patients with Gorlin Syndrome, a rare genetic disease that causes patients to develop multiple basal cell carcinomas. Researchers tracked complete responses for 12 tumors, with “a meaningful reduction of a biomarker for hedgehog signaling (GLI1).”

Lo, who has enjoyed considerable attention for his various explorations on drug R&D funding, explains BridgeBio’s approach this way:

“Despite the terrific scientific innovations we’ve seen in biomedicine, there’s been much less innovation on the corporate side. BridgeBio employs a novel structure that combines portfolio diversification with asset-level focus to sustainably develop drugs for genetic disease.”

This new raise gives the company a couple of more years to run. And if some of it looks good, the financial backers will likely stay on for more.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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